Wednesday, 11 February 2009

There Is a Fine Line...

between clever, and stupid.

Anyone of roughly my chronological age and intellectual maturity will immediately recognise the quote of one David Saint Hubbins (of the fictitious, eponymous band Spinal Tap).

I was thinking of Mr Saint Hubbins two evenings ago as I watched the infomercial that was being masqueraded as a press conference by President Obama. Other than the embarrassingly inappropriate question about Alex Rodriguez, and the bumptious interruption about Joe Biden's latest brilliance - what, exactly, is the confidence interval around his 30 per cent point estimate for the probability of failure - the questions were largely not even softballs, which at the least are moving. The questions were rather more like balls teed up for a six year old. I am curious; who decided, for example, that the Huffington Post is part of the press in any real way, or that, aside from the voices in Patrick Leahy's head, who exactly is clamouring for a "Truth and Reconciliation" commission?

I voted for Mr Obama in November, but I have to say, he is off to a rough start. One of the reasons I did vote for him is that unlike his opponent, he at least had a veneer of change and ran on hope rather than fear. But I'll be damned if he did not sound a lot like George W Bush last night, even if only as a different libretto to the same score of fear and anxiety.

As for change, is there anyone left who honestly believes that things are going to be done differently by a cabinet with more re-treads that the 1989 Yankees? Looking over the cabinet (Hillary Clinton? Wasn't she born in the Watergate Hotel), I am reminded of the old English sit-com "Are You Being Served," which ran when I was much, much younger. There was an episode in which the Ladies department had to share with Gentleman's Ready-Mades during a renovation. After all the hilarity of Mrs Slocombe's bras atop Mr Grainger's trousers, the curtains were revealed to show.... that nothing had changed.

"It's just the same," Mrs Slocombe exclaimed.

Young Mr Grace responded that everything had been outfitted with new wood.

I would offer that the new administration is a lot like Grace Brothers.

The cabinet is in fact, all new wood.

But aside from that, Mrs Slocombe, green hair and all, would recognise that this administration and what it is sellling is just the same.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Don't Try This at Home

Another day, another incredible story. According to Reuters, the state of California is mulling refusing to release tax refunds to those who overpaid their taxes in 2008.

Now, aside from the fact that this is basically theft, where does State Controller John Chiang get the chutzpah to tell people, whose money this actually is, that they must wait 30 days (or perhaps more) to get their money back?

What do you think the IRS, or in the case of Sacramento, the Franchise Tax Board, would say if, come 15th April, you said: "I know that I owe a few thousand dollars, but I am facing a 'cash shortfall,' and so I am going to hold back my taxes for 30 days?" For some reason, I think interest and penalties at the least would descend on you like the winged monkeys from "The Wizard of Oz."

California's fiscal irresponsibility apparently knows neither bounds nor shame. Some are saying the state is on the edge of a financial abyss. Could all those years of reckless spending finally be coming home to roost? Ah the joys of one-party rule.