Ned Pepper's Outrages

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Fine Soft Day

Ned was bemoaning his fate this morning at waking to find yet another day of rain and gloom in the otherwise idyllic Pacific Northwest. After all, the flowers are blooming -- well, not the roses yet but at least the aphids were active.
And then his thoughts turned to a day long ago, when Ned and Q A Wagstaff, OBE, FRS were on an official fact-finding trip to the Isle of Skye off the western coast of the Scottish Highlands. One day they were walking through a small town, and chanced to wish good morning to an old duffer who was kneeling in his small garden tending some flowers in the drizzling rain. The old geezers reply was "Good morrrning. A fine, soft day."
So, mindful of this encounter, Ned shifted his focus and stopped feeling sorry for himself.

A Dragging Economy? Pay Us Interest!

Today comes word via the WSJ that "some" are describing the "recovery" from the Bush Depression and Economic Panic to be anemic, and Ned agrees. One reason is obviously that house prices have become rational after a decade of insanity. Unfortunately, localities depend on property taxes for most of their revenue, so when prices and values fall, revenues often tank as well, except in Alternative Universe places like Ned's home of Oregon where property taxes seem to go up regardless of house prices. But let that pass.
Another problem is the zero interest rate favored by the morons at the Federal Reserve. This affects tens of millions of middle class Americans, especially geezers, who are afraid to risk all their nest egg on a stock market rigged by the Sneering Plutocracy. Ned reckons that about a trillion dollars is tied up in money market, savings and checking accounts that are paying essentially no interest. In around 2005-6, similar MM accounts were paying around 5%. Assume we have one trillion dollars in accounts suddenly getting 5% interest and you have just pumped 50 billion a year into the economy with NO ONE THE LOSER, since no one is borrowing money anyway. In fact it would result in a sharp increase in spending and an increase in tax revenues.
But, since Ned doesn't have an economics degree from Harvard, why should anyone care what he thinks?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ned's Memorial Day Thoughts

Ned will be brief: he can only marvel at, and acknowledge with humility, the courage shown by the men (mainly) who volunteered, or were sent, to fight, suffer, kill and die in the Civil War, World War One and, most of all, World War Two. The draftees in the Vietnam War Ned also thinks of with profound respect and admiration for what they went through, what they had to do in our name, and what they are still going through.
But now Ned's thoughts turn darker. He thinks of the men (mainly) who sent our youth to Vietnam, and to Iraq, and to Afghanistan, and to Pakistan, killing and maiming, women and children, without so much as a declaration of war or a by-your-leave. He ascribes to the lowest circle of hell those war criminals Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey (otherwise a great American, although Ned points out that Adolf Hitler won the Iron Cross in WWI), and Richard Nixon, who were responsible for millions of needless deaths and maimings, and for the defoliation of millions of acres of Indochinese rain forest resulting in environmental damage too great to fathom, and the deaths of simply countless animals. But he realizes they were poisoned with a Cold War mentality and so is inclined to lower the fire's temperature for them occasionally.
But what is he to say about George Bush? Fully aware of all the infamous and calamitous mistakes of the previous imperialist aggressions, he sent hundreds of thousands of American volunteers, or mercenaries as one's point of view dictates (Ned's thoughts tend towards the latter) on a killing spree that is still going on in Afghanistan. Moreover, the terror unleashed by Bush in Iraq, where after all Saddam had kept the lid on decades of sectarian hatred, is continuing today. Ned ascribes George Bush to the absolute lowest circle of hell, and hopes he pays for his crimes somehow, someday.
And so we come to Barack Obama. Ned notes with the profoundest sadness that Obama seems to have learned little from history, and has to share the responsibility for the continuing death and destruction in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Every child dead by "NATO" cowardly night air strikes, every dead civilian murdered by 'suicide bombers' is another curse upon his head.
So ends Ned's Memorial Day musing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Women's Liberation?

Ned has often felt, with the greatest respect, that some of his friends and associates among the female persuasion always wanted to have their cake and eat it, too: they wanted all the trappings of equality, whatever that means, without really wanting to deal with all the responsibility that goes along with it. And to illustrate this, Ned will tell a tale.
It was many years ago, when Ned was a young and foolish unmarried college professor, and if he does say so himself, in some demand from his female friends. One day, an associate at the College, not someone Ned knew well at all, made a startling request: would Ned take out his sister-in-law, who was visiting town for a few days, and who was down in the dumps because she was going through an unpleasant divorce? More out of curiosity and the inability to think of an excuse to refuse, Ned accepted. He drove to the person's house, and picked up the female--an average person but pleasant enough. Ned took her to one of his hangouts, the local Sheraton, where they had a decent happy hour, and ordered drinks: she having a vodka and something, Ned having a beer. They talked about unimportant things, and Ned knew he was really not interested in following up this chance encounter, but certainly wished the woman well. They had another drink and a bit of food. After another hour or so, Ned asked if she was ready to leave, and ordered the bill. 'Shall we split this?'
'Oh' was her reply, 'I didn't bring my purse.'
Now, Ned would like to ask his friends to imagine Ned's ire rising: this woman, who had never met Ned before in her life, and for whom he was essentially doing a favor for an acquaintance, had simply assumed that, whatever the cost of the evening, it was Ned's responsibility.
Ned drove her in silence back to her brother-in-law's house, opened the car door for her, she got out and that was that. But ever since then, Ned has been suspicious of all those who profess to believe in the 'absolute equality' of the sexes, because he doesn't believe that some women really accept all that goes with it.
Now the more cynical of Ned's associates might well ask: what would Ned's response have been if the woman had, shall we say, evinced an interest in an urgent physical intimacy? Ned shuns the implication, and replies that there are words for persons who are willing to trade sex for food and drink.

Defending Freedom's Frontiers II

The Pentagon has come out with a new 'estimate' for the cost of the so-called Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35: $400 billion for 2,400 planes. Now this is 1300 smackers for every man, woman, child, and illegal immigrant in the U.S. But this is just the beginning: the Pentagon also estimates it will cost ONE TRILLION DOLLARS to maintain the planes over their operational lifetime of about 50 years. So 1.4 trillion for a plane for which there is NO ENEMY. Of course, the Pentagon envisions that all our "friends and allies" will want to buy them, too, so perhaps they imagine that the planes could be used for all of us to fight each other.
And this while the Obama people are cringing and wetting their pants at the Republicans' threats to slash Medicare and Social Security, the only programs that stand between dignity and privation for 50 million geezers, while seriously considering keeping the Bush tax cuts for the Paris Hilton Crowd and the Sneering Plutocracy.
You just can't make this stuff up, can you?

Defending Freedom's Frontiers

The House of Representatives has passed a "defense" spending bill of $690 billion, which ironically includes almost nothing for real defensive measures. This of course does not include hidden costs for the CIA nor the hundreds of billions in legacy medical costs for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan down the road. It does include at least $120 billion to continue the drone attacks resulting in murder of kids and wedding parties, oops, "suspected insurgents."
Protecting freedom's frontiers while millions go without jobs here and fifty million lack health care. But at least there remain Bread and Circuses for the Mob.

Cowboy boots on a chicken

Up until the past few years, Ned had been in the habit of doing his own taxes. Then, some colossal mistakes on his part, his self-employed status coupled with the bewildering complexity of the rules for charging for office space and what-have-you, made him seek 'out' the services of a professional tax-preparer. The first one he hired sent him a completely un-itemized bill for $385. When Ned called his office, he was told that 'Michael is at the top of his field and he doesn't bother with itemizing his services' (Ned is not making this up). Ned politely enquired if the boss would quietly accept and pay an un-itemized bill for $385 from his local car-repair guys, and he was told that was irrelevant. Now, this is then same guy who missed one of Ned's most obvious deductions, that of income from a muni bond fund from bonds in one's home state. Ned negotiated a reduced charge.
Ned selected a new preparer based on several recommendations from friends. All went well until last year, when Ned was told that he overpaid his taxes by about $4000! Ned's friends can imagine his glee, and his feeling that it was un-necessary to actually read the return, so he just signed "off on" it. Ned also was told that he had no need to pay quarterly taxes for 2010, since he could just apply his return to that. What bliss!
When Ned's 2010 return was ready a couple of months ago, Ned was informed that he owed $8000! Upon actually finally reading his 2009 return, he found that his preparer had failed to include a substantial sum of dividends and interest from Ned's USAA account, that Ned had clearly and plainly itemized on a separate sheet of paper.
Now, Ned's friends can appreciate his dilemma: not only was he liable for extra taxes for 2009, plus penalties and interest, but he had to pay several thousands of dollars extra for 2010, even after finding yet another massive error (in his favor for a change!) on his 2010 return!
Ned's quandary is this: he feels he is not qualified to do his own taxes, but doesn't seem to be able to find anyone who is. Ned spent his entire professional life being both responsible and accountable for everything he did. In the "real world" apparently, that situation is as rare as cowboy boots on a chicken.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ned's thriving government class

Ned had the misfortune to read his local paper Wednesday while waiting for his shift to begin, working at his local co-op. On the front page was a report on the city crisis du jour, a "lack of money" for the schools, etc.
Featured in the story was the sad tale of the school district's "theater manager", whose responsibility is apparently to oversee the $8 million theater complex built for the two local high schools some years ago, using, of course, an increase in property taxes to pay for it. Now, leave aside the fact that many local students are deficient in math and science, and may of them can't string together a coherent sentence. The crisis deals with how to maintain the "theater manager's" salary. Now, this individual is apparently a thirty-something woman who reportedly "left her own business" to take the position. Ned would like his friends to guess this person's salary, and then add ten grand to their estimate. The correct answer: $96,000. Ninety-six thousand dollars a year, in a community where young people cannot find jobs, where Vietnam vets live under overpasses and collect cans and bottles for cheap wine, and where property taxes go up year after year, even in years when property values go down (Ned is not making this up). Now, Ned's friends may suspect that many of his local citizen friends are becoming irate at the exorbitant salaries paid to city and state workers, in the face of economic hardship so many are facing, the loss of 401ks, health care, and pensions when workers are laid off by Sneering Plutocrats, and the like.
Up to now, Ned has refused to join the parade, seeking to avoid the trap the Plutocrats have laid for us by demonizing government workers, to take our sights off the real issue which is low taxes for the Sneering Plutocracy and the Paris Hilton crowd.
But now he is not so sure...

Representation without taxation

Ned is sure his many friends will appreciate his recent electoral experience. His local community, deeming it essential to raise additional funds to keep open a "senior center" and an "aquatic center", and not of course wishing to actually charge users enough for admittance to cover the cost of operations, decided to put yet another property tax increase on the ballot, for which all citizens could vote. Now, Ned's friends will appreciate that many of the local voters, such as geezers, teens over 18, university students, and renters, do not actually PAY any property tax, so they would be only too likely to support raising the taxes of those who do, to pay for the "services" they deem important. Ned can now report that the tax passed with a two-to-one vote in favor, ensuring that yet more groups can have city services, paid for entirely by someone else.
One of Ned's associates referred to this process as 'representation without taxation,' and Ned is glad to report that democracy, American style, is stiil alive and well.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Love Match

Ned was particularly revolted by an article on the FRONT PAGE of today's NYT, discussing or perhaps giggling over the marriage of the IMF's ex-head Strauss-Kahn and former newsreader, oops, "anchor," Anne Sinclair. The article described their marriage as "a love match." Ned is not sure where the evidence for this interpretation came from, but for brevity's sake he is willing to stipulate that the marriage was not an arranged one, nor a shotgun wedding with the father of the bride "officiating" holding a shotgun. Perhaps the evidence came in the preceding sentence which read (and here Ned is paraphrasing) 'he has been married twice before, and has four children. She has been married once before and has two children.'
Ned can only presume that the earlier 'matches' between these members of the foreign Sneering Plutocracy were, regrettably, not "love matches," given how sadly they turned out.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

IMF Update!

Ned would like to acknowledge the perspicacity of the bespectacled individual who paraded in front of the IMF Headquarters in DC carrying a sign that read "RAPE IS RAPE." Such a clear solution to a complex problem Ned has seldom seen, and he is in awe of the nature of the Intellect that could formulate such a principle.
Ned senses a new school of morality is emerging, based on such a concept, and would suggest "MURDER IS MURDER" "THEFT IS THEFT" "TERRORISM IS TERRORISM" "BLACK IS BLACK" "FEAR IS FEAR" and even a concept that can help our younger readers with their schoolwork: "UP IS UP."
Ned encourages his friends to think of their own examples and communicate them to us.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Unimaginable, unimaginable arrogance

Ned is going to list a series of examples of what he considers to be arrogance and narcissistic behavior so beyond the pale as to be unimaginable. Ned is beginning to wade in a sea of befuddlement as pertains to many of his fellow sentient beings.

* How could someone in the public eye like Arnold Schwarzenegger FATHER A CHILD by one of his household "staff," and his wife NOT BE AWARE of it? How could this man be elected governor of the most populous state in the United States, with an economy BY ITSELF the ninth largest in the world, and this egregious business not even come up until this man has left office?
* How could Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF and the most popular Socialist in France, attack a HOTEL MAID in BROAD DAYLIGHT and expect to get away with it? Apparently this man had made a habit of this kind of behavior over the years, but no one has seen fit to call him on it.
* How could a man like Newt Gingrich expect to be taken seriously on social and economic policy, besides on "family values", when he has had multiple affairs with female staffers, married apparently two of them after dumping the former wife, and by undergoing a "conversion to Catholicism" expect all his crimes and misdemeanors to be "washed away in the blood of the lamb" so to speak? What does this say about the moral bankruptcy of a political faction that would take him seriously as a presidential candidate?
* In each of the above cases, how can reasonably intelligent women marry such a man, and attempt to keep any shred of self-respect?
* How could a creature like John Ensign be elected Senator from Nevada given his background and the fact that he was given everything he had by his daddy and mummy, and then go on to have an affair with a married "staffer" with the FULL KNOWLEDGE of her husband, and then try to get his daddy to pay the guy $90k or more in hush money, and expect to get away with it?
*How can a charlatan like Donald Trump, who was given everything he had by his rich daddy, and who epitomizes the principle made famous by Keynes; to wit, if you owe your banker a thousand pounds he owns you, but if you owe him a million pounds you own him, be taken seriously be Republicans as a presidential candidate, or by Americans as an example of a successful businessman?

What in the hell is this place coming to?

Monday, May 16, 2011

WTF With The IMF?

Ned admits to being perplexed by the alleged rape of a hotel worker by the head of the IMF. Ned will only say that he expects that the alleged perpetrator will be assumed innocent until proven guilty, but is already disturbed by some of the details of the "case", as fragmentary as they are. First, although the NYT has refused (quite rightly, in Ned's view) to release the name of the alleged victim, it knows her identity, because its minions have already conducted interviews of her neighbors and friends, and have reported that they consider her to be a nice, family-oriented, friendly person, initially prejudicing the case against the alleged perpetrator. The alleged perpetrator has been awarded no such consideration, as he has been paraded in chains before the press, denied bail, and the pictures spread all over the mediashpere. Secondly, Ned concludes that the circumstances of the case could be interpreted at this early stage to be consistent with a 'he said, she said' story, and he hopes not. Third, the alleged perpetrator has been apparently required to provide samples of his DNA, in apparent violation of his Fifth-Amendment rights. Finally, Ned is troubled by the entire situation: at 1.30 (PM?) the maid enters a room, finding a man naked who ran into the bedroom. Was she invited? Enticed? Why was she there? Why didn't the "guest" keep his door locked?
Reports are already coming in about a history of aggressive behavior towards women, behavior which might be tolerated in France but certainly not in an 'Anglo Saxon' situation.
Ned can only expect that justice will be done, and, if convicted, the assailant will be given the harshest punishment, but ruefully concludes that even if the alleged assailant is found innocent, his reputation is already in tatters.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ned's hiatus

Ned has in fact been so outraged of late, betrayed as he has been by the jingoist and reactionary tendencies of the Person for whom he worked in the election of 2008, that he took a hiatus to reflect, and went to an Undisclosed Location in a nearly fruitless (!) quest for a decent Sonoma County wine. He will have a report soon. He will also have reports on Ned's Health and Fitness blog.
Ned wishes his many friends and followers a good day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An American Holocaust?

Today's NYT contained a profoundly troubling story about a 12-year-old Iraqi girl whose parents were killed by trigger-happy American soldiers at an American "checkpoint" in Iraq. The kid is traumatized, her brother was in the car, wounded, and died afterwards. There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose lives have been terminated (mostly innocent) or ruined by the actions or consequences of American invasion and occupation forces.
Once the total reaches the hundreds of thousands of innocents, when does it start to be genocide and a holocaust? Ned repeats that this was all done in his name but without his sanction. George Bush just decided to send American troops to invade a country without a declaration of war, and there was not a God-damned thing we could do about it, and now Barack Obama is sending American drones to kill civilians, children and "suspected insurgents" and "suspected terrorists" in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
When will this nightmare end? Ned only wished the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity would get the justice he would give them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How do you fit politically?

Some of Ned's friends have pointed out that the Pew Research Center has a fun poll that will tell you how you compare to others' political positions in general. Try it at
Ned is a "post modern", whatever that is.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Assassinating a foreign national

Ned notes that many of his fellow countrymen are literally beside themselves with glee over the reported assassination of Bin Laden by U.S. troops. And Ned himself, while he would have preferred that the criminal be captured and brought to justice, thinks that, based on the limited evidence available to him, overall a rough, quasilegal, frontier-style 'justice' was done. But he, noting the prickliness of the Pakistanis over the apparent high-handed manner in which U.S. troops violated Pakistani air space and carried out the assassination in the sovereign territory of another country, would like to pose a philosophical question.
For years, a Cuban anti-Castro fanatic resided in the Miami area, a person whom the Cuban government was convinced carried out a bombing of a Cuban air flight, causing scores of innocent deaths. The U.S. government sneered at, and generally pooh-poohed the Cuban protests. Now, suppose a Cuban assassination team had infiltrated the U.S., stormed the house of the suspected terrorist, shot him dead, than left, proclaiming to the world that justice had been done.
What do Ned's friends think the response of the U.S. government to the Cuban government would have been?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A mentally ill nation?

Ned will risk the approbation of his friends for once again daring to practice medicine without a license, and declare that the evidence that this country seems to have a curious form of mental illness is growing. Add to the gloating over the murder of Bin Laden, and who knows who else, by killers paid by the United States, we have the report of a successful doggie massage business in Portland OR run by a 'therapist.' She charges about $90 an hour for therapy sessions to humans, but only $1 a minute to give massages to dogs. And, apparently her business is booming, while beggars roam the streets, Vietnam vets live under bridges and collect cans and bottles for pennies, and most middle class persons wonder when or even if, they will be able to retire, and fifty million of us are afraid to get sick 'cause we could be bankrupted by medical bills.
But at least the Sneering Plutocracy is thriving (see previous posts). And we might all be able to get the leavings from the dog's bowl, after Spot has had his massage and dinner.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Death of Bin Laden

Yesterday Obama allowed as how the killing of Bin Laden testified to the "greatness of the American people" and how we should all feel happy and unified at last. Ned wonders what prescription medication he has been abusing.
To imagine that somehow the death of Bin Laden will "unify the country" and end the "funk" that this country has been in since the financial crisis of 2007-8 is the most preposterous kind of drivel. There are tens of millions out of work, or working multiple part-time jobs for low pay and no benefits, and fifty million without real health care. We still have 40k troops in Iraq, and 140k in Afghanistan, we are bombing wedding parties and school kids every day in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the Obama people agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the Sneering Plutocracy, the single greatest reason why the budget is disastrously out of balance. The other reasons? A trillion dollars flushed down the toilet in Iraq, and an obscene $800 billion a year spent on the military. All the while the sneering plutocrats get richer and more smug, while the rest of us wait, hat in hand, for crumbs to fall out of the cat's bowl.