Today's Note from a Madman


Monday, December 13, 2004


“Moral Leaders” Fail to Lead by Example
by Eddie Konczal

Pundits constantly tell us that the 2004 Presidential Election was decided by “moral values.” Alas, it appears that many of the self-appointed spokesmen of conservative moral values do not practice what they preach. Let’s look at the record:

-Conservative commentator
Rush Limbaugh, who has preached that society must severely punish drug abusers, admitted he himself abuses drugs.
Bill Bennett, author of “The Book of Virtues,” is revealed to have amassed a multi-million dollar gambling debt.
Bill O’Reilly, whose recent books include “The O’Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America’s Families,” made obscene phone calls to a former co-worker.
Dick Cheney uttered profanities on the floor of the Senate.
-Last but not least, President
George W. Bush, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, sent American troops into an unjustified war and lied to the American people about the reasons for the war, breaking at least two of the Ten Commandments in the process.

Moral leadership is useless if moral leaders do not practice what they preach.

False Promises of Social Security Privatization
by Robert Scardapane -

The social security administrator, Mr. Goss, claims that investing the trust fund in the stock market can yield an annualized return of 7 percent compared to 3 percent. That sounds nice but is a fairy tale.
Stocks without dividends do not generate revenue until you sell them and dividends are generally smaller than treasury yields. In fact, stock investors succeed only when they actively buy low and sell high. Mutual funds take on trading responsibility but have annual fees. Except for dividends, the investor makes no money until they sell the fund.
The returns on large cap stocks vary throughout the market's history. For instance, large cap stocks suffered an annualized loss of 1 percent from early 1929 to the end of 1942. The period of late 1999 to early 2003 was equally dreadful.
Mr Goss asserts that market risk has been mitigated because it is capable of sustaining higher price/earning ratios. But, in the late 1990's, the financial pundits said price/earning ratios don't matter only to later denounce the same stocks on that basis. Is our government now the voice of market "pump and dump"?
There is hypocrisy in advising people to develop safe sources of retirement income, annuities for instance, while advocating investment of social security in the risky stock market.
The simple truth is that there is no crisis in social security. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected a surplus into 2052. For those who say, why should we believe a 40 year projection, I say, why should we believe a 40 year projection based on privatization? The proponents of privatization have not made a convincing case.

Social Security Privatization
by Robert Scardapane -

The prophets of doom are preaching the sermon of the imminent demise of social security. They tell us that the "baby boomers" are going to retire in droves thus collapsing the solvent social security trust fund. But, why should we believe these practitioners of psychological warfare? Consider their main source.
The right-wing think tank CATO Institute has been pushing social security privatization for 20 years. Financial institutions are one of it's largest contributors. Who would gain by social security privatization? Eureka, the very same institutions - seems somewhat corrupt.
Will the "baby boomers" really retire in large numbers over the next ten years? Don't count on it. Many people experienced the pain of their 401K retirement plan turning into a "201K" plan when they lost more than 50% in the stock market bust of 2000-2001. These folks will be working much longer than expected. Also, consider the grim reality that many people have lost their health care coverage - there is evidence that longevity actually decreased last year.
But, even with a burst of retirees over the next ten years coupled with increased longevity, the social security trust fund will be solvent to the year 2052 according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In short, there is no crisis! No doubt, tweaks will be needed but a radical overhaul is not indicated.
I think that Americans do take on too much debt and don't save enough. But, risking retirement money in the stock market is not the answer. Stock market investing is tricky and most people, experts included, have a hard time consistently making money. Consider that social security trust fund was created in response to the stock market crash of 1929. Investing this fund in the very system that motivated it's creation is simply contradictory.

Stupid Quote of the Day


Dr. Tom Coburn, a Republican who was elected to the Senate from Oklahoma last month, and a practicing obstetrician, "merely wants to break even with his costs to maintain his medical practice,"

-John Hart, spokesman for Senator-elect Coburn


HEY! I got an idea! maybe the good doctor can save some time and make a few extra bucks by delivering babies right there on the floor of the Senate!


Oh... Wait a minute... We can't have that with V.P. Dick Cheney there. All that swearing a cursing down there and foul language might scar the poor child for life!


-Noah Greenberg

My Trip to the Mall

An OUTSOURCING Adventure - Part 1


It's Holiday Time in New Jersey (Being Jewish, I get to say "Holiday Time" without fear of repercussion from the Right). I need an entire new outfit. My first job is to outfit myself with new underwear, sweat socks and a nice warm winter coat. I am determined to only buy goods made in the USA. I drive a Chrysler; I believe in Labor Unions; and I want to make a statement, as small as it is. My 17-year-old daughter, Bonnie, accompanies me to the Freehold, NJ Raceway Mall (Bonnie no longer lets me pick out my own clothes - she's a brilliant child).


Our first stop is typical of the entire trip - no luck. We searched in store after store... still no luck. We finally end up at Sears. "Surely we will find all of the items we want there." I think to myself, for fear of saying it aloud.


So we go right up to the 2nd floor Men's Department. First item on the list is underwear. Now, I realize that underwear is competitively priced, so after a short search I gave up.


Next, I looked for socks. EUREKA! Right there in a bin, in the middle of the sales floor is a package of ten pair of white crew socks with the stitching on top of the toes (I have very tender feet. Those are the only type of athletic socks I'll wear. We all have our own peculiarities, don't we?). Not only were they available, but they were even cheaper than the socks that were made in China!


Next we went to search for a nice, warm winter coat. I didn't want anything fancy. all I wanted was something to keep me warm and dry in the fierce New Jersey winter ( I had visions of changing a flat tire during a snowstorm wearing nothing but a wind-breaker). There were dozens... no... make that hundreds of coats. Coats with hoods. Coats with snaps. Coats with zippers. Coats with hats. There were long coats; short coats; black coats; white coats. There were coats for skiers and coats for hunters. There were coats for everybody... except me. You see, there were no coats made in the USA. Not one.


I spotted a man who apparently worked in the men's Department and I asked:

"Excuse me, sir. I'm looking for a Winter Coat ..."

"Well, we have plenty if them right here," the man replied.

"Yes, but I want one made in the USA," I explained.

The man snickered and said, "Oh, we don't have anything like that here." He then walked away.

In a flash, he was gone with a puzzled look on his face. I didn't even have a chance to ask him about the underwear.


Had a swarm of moths attacked me before I entered the Mall, I would have left naked, with the exception of a single pair of socks on my feet and 5 in a bag.

Check back tomorrow for my search for An OUTSOURCING Adventure - Part 2: The day I find my coat.


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-Noah Greenberg