Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Overdrawn at the Integrity Bank

John McCain—Big Mac-- stands outside the First National Bank of Integrity & Honor. He admires its solid and graceful façade. He turns to his campaign manager Steve Schmidt.
Big Mac: “Love this bank. It really stands for something, and looks the part.”
Steve replies: “Yeah, I’ve often thought about trying to acquire an account here, but stuff keeps getting in the way.”
Big Mac: “Well Steve, they’re really fussy here. They only provide accounts for people of certain characteristics. You know, when I was a POW I made a sizable deposit here, thanks to my daddy and granddaddy.”
Big Mac caresses the gray marble, briefly and then walks briskly to the imposing brass and glass doors. He swings open the door and walks inside. It is quiet, almost hushed. A teller looks up, smiles at him and asks: “May I help you Senator?”
Big Mac: “Yes, my friend, you can help me. I need to make a sizeable withdrawal from my account, which is why I came in person.”
Teller: “Yes sir, just a moment while I check your account.”
Steve Schmidt: “This place is amazing. So quiet.”
Big Mac: “yeah, well the bank is all about integrity and honor, so a lot of blabbing is frowned upon.”
Teller returns: “I’m sorry sir, but there seems to be a problem with your account.”
Big Mac: “Problem? What’s the problem?”
Teller: “Well sir, it appears that you are overdrawn, and you have exceeded your overdraft line.”
Big Mac: “What? You’re obviously mistaken. My account is quite large. You know, I used to be a POW in Vietnam.”
Teller: “Yes sir, that’s where your account received most of its credits. But it seems you have been withdrawing steadily over the past twenty years and you are now officially tapped out.”
Big Mac: “Young lady, you are mistaken. I want to speak with one of your supervisors. Now!”
Teller turns to a nearby supervisor:"Sir?”
Supervisor: “Yes, how may I be helpful?”
Teller: “The Senator doesn’t seem to understand that his integrity account is now overdrawn. He wants to make additional withdrawals, but he has no remaining credits.”
Supervisor looks at the account statement: “Sir, I’m afraid the teller is correct. You have no more credits in your account and you are in fact overdrawn.”
Big Mac: “But how can that be? I’m a POW, you know.”
Supervisor; “well it seems you have been withdrawing steadily. That messy business when you left your wife and took up with that rich heiress created a sizable withdrawal.”
Big Mac: “But I married Cindy . . .”
Supervisor: “Doesn’t matter. You had an affair and then abandoned your disfigured wife at a really bad time for her. That was an expensive withdrawal of honor. Also, your role in that Keating scandal required another big withdrawal. And then there’s all these smaller withdrawals made in your name by your colleague Steve Schmidt. ”
Big Mac: “What? Steve, have you been withdrawing on my integrity account?”
Steve: “Well, you told me to do whatever was required to win. Win, you said, win at any cost.”
Supervisor: “Now see, that kind of talk creates ripples and each ripple causes a withdrawal.”
Big Mac: “Well if I have no credits left, how about a loan? I need to make some withdrawals with my running mate Gov. Palin.”
Supervisor: “A loan . . . oh no, I’m afraid a loan is out of the question Senator. We only make loans when we are certain to recover the debt. In your case, I’m afraid you simply don’t have the time left, plus you seem to insist on remaining active in a political life til the end. That more or less eliminates the possibility of repaying and almost guarantees more withdrawals. No, sir, I’m afraid your integrity account will need to be closed. We have standards you know. Sorry sir. Maybe in your next life.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

And the winner is . . .

Debate One . . . and the winner is . . .
This first debate was initially about . . . whether John McCain would actually show up. Well, he did. Since it dealt with his supposed strength, foreign policy, I imagine that he was supposed to wipe the floor with Obama, that poor inexperienced foreign policy novice. He didn’t. Mind you over half the debate was actually about finance, about which McCain is the novice, except when it comes to cozy relationships (remember McCain and the “Keating Five” scandal?).
McCain’s’ main argument was that Obama is dangerously naïve when it comes to serious stuff like war and peace, whereas he is ready to step in and assume command with no training. The problem with his argument is that he has an actual record. We know that he was wrong about Iraq, and wrong about Afghanistan. Those wrong-headed decisions on his part, which he still refuses to face up to, represent the real danger to our country. It leaves me breathless, hearing him tell us how experienced he is. Is Iran next on his list of countries to invade? Is that really his main foreign policy position—when in doubt INVADE?
And then, talk about dangerous, his selection of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate is perhaps the most dangerous and reckless decision any presidential candidate has ever made. Sarah Palin makes Dan Quayle seem almost reasonable. We know that Sarah knows nothing--she seems to have spent her lifetime avoiding any serious studying. We also know that she thinks it’s ok to appoint her high school chums (who also don't know anything) to high level government positions. We also know that McCain himself would flunk any test of reasonableness on appointees, given his closest advisors—I shudder to think about the state of our economic health with Phil Gramm at the helm of the Treasury, especially given the fact that McCain himself has told us he knows little to nothing about the subject.
So, did the debate settle anything? Probably not. Everything we know about McCain was on display. Obama scored no knock-out blows, but McCain failed to dent the Obama armor.
McCain seems, increasingly, just a very old man, way past his prime, and ready to relax and retire to one of his seven homes.
Which makes his choice of Palin even scarier.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Conflicts and Clarity

I used to work for one of the Big 8 accounting firms, Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. It was not by choice mind you. PMM had bought our management consulting firm, so I became automatically a member of PMM. While working in the Washington office, one of our senior partners from the New York office went to prison for his role in hiding from the public the true financial state of the Penn Central railroad, just before it declared bankruptcy.
I have watched now several more times where accounting partners from the firm, now KPMG, continued this apparently long-standing practice and were called on it. Apparently, the firm never learned its Penn Central lesson.
Then came the big financial shakeup, when accounting firms were chastised. The problem was, though, that they all came to the wrong conclusion. The geniuses in charge of examining accounting misdeeds somehow concluded that the problem was that accounting firms also had consulting arms and those consulting arms had created this big conflict of interest. That is, the consulting arms would step in and grab a piece of the pie, creating, they thought, a conflict of interest. So the solution was—separate the accounting firms from their consulting entities.
Excuse me??? When I worked for PMM, the accountants generally kept us at more than arms length from their clients. They ruled the roost. We were the poor country cousins whom they tolerated to live in the back bedroom.
So what is the real problem? Well, I believe strongly that the real conflict of interest is that the auditing firms, like KPMG, receive their fees from the firms they are auditing. Now that is a serious conflict of interest. It is the same conflict of interest that exists between firms that rate bonds and other financial instruments and the firms issuing those instruments. In both cases, the firms being examined can fire the audit-rating agencies if they don’t like the results.
A solution? Well, I would argue that we need an entirely new accounting approach. In this new approach, accounting firms and rating agencies would be hired, after competitive bidding by an independent federal agency to carry out the audits of major companies. The companies being audited would have no choice. They could complain if they believed the accounting practices were incorrect, but they could not simply fire the auditors. Would this create a new bureaucracy? You betcha. The federal agency could be some new government-private sector morph creature. That is a detail. Whether all companies would have to submit to this new approach, or only firms above some size is another detail that would need to be discussed and resolved.
But the key is the separation of audit firms and rating agencies from the firms being audited. The single biggest problem facing the Nation now is the absence of clear information about the financial health of the large financial firms that now threaten the very survival of the nation. No one knows the real worth of their holdings. Part of that problem is complexity. But a very large part is the active collusion of the accounting firms with these financial giants to cloud that picture. That practice must now stop.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Value of Street Cred

The Value of Street Cred: The current scrambling in the Nation’s capital to figure out a way to fix permanently (hahahahaha) the debacle that is Wall Street demonstrates rather forcefully why consistent lying by a President is not a great idea. It works sometimes for some things (such as a presidential campaign) but it can’t and doesn’t work all the time for all things. George and his gang are practiced liars as we all know. Some people care about that sort of thing and some, I guess, don’t. I think it’s a bad idea generally, but also, it’s counterproductive when something like the Great Crash of 2008 comes along.
George kind of slid the Iraq invasion passed us, based on a rather extensive set of lies. Now, five years later, most of us don’t trust him to tell us the truth about much of anything. His chickens, so to speak, have come home to roost. Even if his minions are now telling us the truth about the status of our economy, we don’t trust him to devise a productive solution. And, he needs our trust. When his guys tell us they want almost a trillion dollars (pretty soon they’ll be talking about real money) and that we should trust them to spend it wisely and in our best interests, he needs us to trust his sheep herders. Instead, his sheep herders are now faced with the prospect of herding cats, all howling and whining about CEO compensation.
It’s probably the cases that, since George and his merry band are on the way out the door, they matter rather less than they used to. Still, whoever marches in the revolving door, as George skips out, will now face the prospect of a seriously damaged nation and government. Whatever they wanted to do, they will be less able to do after this mess is tidied up. It’s by no means clear that Congress can devise anything that will fix the economy in any strategic way, at least not in a week. The rush to fix seems necessary because the vultures hovering above Wall Street and the nation are watching and waiting. Globalism that seemed so wonderful last week, is now facing us big time, waiting for us to make a move . . . or a mistake. So, we dare not get it wrong.
But what’s right? Aye, there’s the rub.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let Me Get This Straight

I wish I had written this, but the author is unknown to me. I thought he or she deserved to have this piece widely circulated. Just to clarify things.

Subject: Let me get this right
I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....(hope I'm not offending anyone)
If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're exotic, different.
Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim. Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.Attend five different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

If you spend three years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend twelve years as a constitutional Law professor, spend eight years as a state senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend four years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
If your total resume is: local weather girl, four years on the city council and six years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, twenty months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest rankingexecutive.

If you have been married to the same woman for nineteen years while raising two beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education,including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
If you're husband is nicknamed 'First Dude', with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lying Again

Lately I have been reading a lot of articles about lying, and not just misstatements, or other euphemisms, but straight out lying--as in why does the McCain campaign continue to repeat the same lies that have already been thoroughly debunked? Mainly, the answer comes back, because it works to lie. To debunk the lie requires someone to repeat the lie, thus giving added weight, despite the context, that is, debunking the lie.
As I said in an earlier posting, the lying was shown to work during the earlier Bush campaign. McCain learned the hard way when the Bush campaign issued the lie that McCain had fathered a Black child--in fact McCain had adopted a child who is not "white." But Big MAC learned that a lie that feeds into people's belief systems (a polite way to say "peoples' prejudices") will harden or even forge a certain attitude.
What that all means to me is that lying provides a rationale for people to do what they wanted to do anyway for other reasons, reasons that they would prefer not acknowledging.
So, what is going on in today's campaign? Well, the lies about Obama include the following:
1. Obama is a Muslim -- False, he is a Christian and has never been a Muslim.
2. Obama was born in Africa -- False, he was born in Hawaii.
3. Obama has "Mob" connections -- False, and I can't even figure out where this one came from, but it was repeated by people I know well.
4. Obama is going to increase the taxes of the middle class--False, his tax plan will cut some middle class taxes and will increase taxes on the very wealthy.
5. Obama proposes to teach kindergartners sex education -- False, his proposal was to provide elementary school kids with information to help them avoid sexual predators.
And the lies emanating from Big MAC about himself and Palin include:
1. They are all about CHANGE -- False, McCain has voted consistently over many years to follow the same principles as Bush-Cheney on issues of War and Economics.
2. They propose to rid the capital of the influence of lobbyists--I have to conclude this is False, since McCain's main campaign senior staff are all highly paid lobbyists.
3. They (now) propose that CEOs who screw up their companies should not receive large golden parachutes -- again patently False, if one understands that McCain's senior adviser is Carly Fiorino ex-CEO of Hewlett Packard who was fired after her disastrous decision to buy Compaq Computer, leading to huge losses for HP. Ms Fiorino was paid over $30 million as a payout on her forced departure.
4. McCain is in favor of more strenuous regulation of the financial industry -- again patently False. McCain has never favored serious regulation--he is an ardent anti-regulation senator, and receives his advice from Phil Gramm, one of the key architects of the current deregulated financial industry and heavily responsible for the current meltdown. Gramm is slated to be Treasury Secretary under McCain.
5. Palin opposes earmarks--this one is patently False and has been debunked so many times, it is now simply amazing that she continues to utter the same tired lies about her record. As Governor and earlier, she vigorously pursued and received very large federal pork payments, exceeding the per capita pork payments to Obama's Illinois by about ten times.
One could go one, but you get the point.
So, what do the lies do?
Well, they paint false pictures of the two candidates that play to people's prejudices in important ways. I believe we are seeing a campaign that plays into American Racism. Many, many Americans are either consciously or subconsciously Racist. Often, such Americans would never admit to that fact, and actually will deny it. But they cannot bring themselves to vote for Obama. The falsehoods provide a cover for their Racism. They can now vote safely for the white man, because (take your pick) Obama is a Muslim, or he will raise my taxes, and McCain will fight for me and my working class friends. Afterwards, when it becomes clear that McCain will do nothing of the sort, but will continue to plunder the Nation's Treasury in pursuit of increased riches for the very wealthy, they will say, "so what else is new, get me a brew, hon?"
One hopes that the Obama campaign will expose this truly radical approach during the debates. I keep hoping that Racism will not triumph this time, and that we are better than that as a people. We will know on Nov. 4th.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greed is Good: A Play

Scene: The Martini Lounge, a well-heeled club for Wall Street traders.
Cast: Three senior executives at Salamander Brothers, a small but highly esteemed Wall Street investment firm. The executives, George, Richard, and Wandi, have just arrived at the club after attending a meeting of highly placed operatives from the SEC.
Wandi:" I cannot believe the news. I mean, it’s been doom and gloom ever since those Baer clowns and the Neanderthals from Lehman brought down the circus. I was beginning to think I’d have to go get a job, for God’s sake”.
Richard: “Now, Wandi, you always were the dark one. You really need to lighten up during these little market perturbations”.
George: “Yeah, those other idiots never did understand when to hold’m and when to fold’m. It’s “Buy low, sell high” I kept telling them.”
Wandi: “OK, but who would have guessed that our white knight would arrive so quickly, really before the game was declared officially over. “
Richard: “Uh, waiter, a round of very dry martini’s for these two, and a very dry Stolli’s on ice for me. Well guys, we need to do some serious strategic planning to work this new playground. “
George: “I agree. We can’t just plunge in with the old ideas. New ideas, change . . . yeah, that’s it, a Changed Investment Strategy; that’s what we’ll call it”.
Wandi: “Or, how about Strategic Investments for a Changed Economy? I love this change stuff, don’t you? We can devise and peddle anything we want, as long as it represents CHANGE.”
Richard: “Well, we can’t be too obvious, or too scary initially. We need to be seen as the guys of serious change, the white knights riding in to secure everyone’s financial future.”
George: “True, true. Once we get established in our new playground, we can begin moving in more innovative approaches. We keep projecting the future benefits, say 25 years downstream. You won’t see quick returns, but you will understand how fruitful this new approach is once your portfolio begins paying out at your retirement. That kind of thing”
Wandi: “Agreed. The Boomers are a lost cause. They’re already flat out of luck from the old financial system. We need to focus on post-Boomers, the ones whose money is still in play.”
George: “What do we do about the God Squad folks? Mostly, as we know, they’ll believe anything, as long as it’s packaged properly. But we can’t just say we prayed and the answer came to us at that moment. I mean, they’re gullible, but even they must have limits.”
Wandi: “Well, I do believe that we don’t need to do anything. Mainly, they’re preoccupied most of the time worrying about the effects of Gays on marriage, and all those Godless folks who practice baby murder. They seem to neither understand nor worry overly much about things like their financial future. They simply accept that someone will show up to take care of them when their turn comes.”
Richard: Well, what about all the crybaby Democrats like Clinton and Gore and Obama? They spend their time whining about us awful people and what we intend to do with their money. I see them as a real problem. Somehow, they need to be neutralized.”
George: “Yeah, with extreme prejudice . . . heh, heh, heh.”
Wandi: Now, George, we can’t talk like that. This is after all a public establishment.”
George: “Yeah, public . . . like let’s see the Dems try to crash into this club. Good thing they lost that election. Would have been hell to pay if they had won. Who knows, they might have shut down the game altogether.”
Wandi: “Now you’re sounding like me George. We need to keep focused. The Bad Guys lost and the Barracuda Team won. It’s up to us to develop a new game with our brand new playground.”
George: “OK. OK, Wandi, you’re right. Let the Games Begin.”
Richard: “OK, first of all, what will we call the new playground? We can’t keep calling it “Social Security. Brings back too many memories, and would keep reminding the folks out there that the Dems invented that game.”
Wandi: “How about the Workmen’s Protection Act, or WPA”
Richard: “I got it, “Greed is Good: the system for you and your grandkids.”
They all laugh, down their drinks and order a second round. The lights dim.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Selling Naked

So Lehman Brothers is going under. Not yet Chapter 7, but can that be far behind? The thing that bothers me most about the news is that it is now characterized as a failure triggered by the collapsing mortgage market. But the ugly truth is that it wasn’t an abstraction like a collapsing market that created the failure of Lehman. It was Lehman executives. They created the conditions that led to the market collapse, not the reverse. Extreme greed characterized Lehman executives and senior staff. Maybe we should create a new Olympic sport called Extreme Greed. Out-of-work Lehman executives could be first in line to compete.
I guess everyone knows about “short selling”. That’s where you (if you’re a trader on the inside) are allowed to sell things you don’t own. It’s sort of like me deciding that the real estate market in your neighborhood was dropping or going to drop, so I would sell your house, on the assumption that the market would drop. Then, when it actually dropped, I’d buy it back at the reduced price and you and I would pocket the difference. Mostly, in traditional short selling, I would have to ask to borrow your house before I could sell it. But then the geniuses on Wall Street came up with a new idea to make money out of thin air. They call it ‘naked short selling.” That’s where I don’t even have to ask you before I sell your house. I just sell it, wait til the market plummets, buy it back, then I pocket the difference. I guess technically I don’t actually sell your house. I just sell A House in your neighborhood, address unknown, with a sort of promise to produce a house if need be. Now I would think the SEC would frown on such naked selling. But no, they moved to temporarily protect certain specific banks in the mortgage business from such crap dealings. The Republican head of the SEC thinks such dealings are totally A-OK.
Then there’s the expectation that, when you buy something like stocks, you do so with something approximating a full disclosure of the financial worth of the thing you intend to buy. Two things are supposed to guarantee such full information. One is the rating agencies. The second is the audit firms that produce audit reports on the businesses and financial instruments. Well, guess what, it turns out that the companies being rated hire and pay the fees of the rating agencies. So, if they don’t like the ratings being produced, they simply hire another rating agency. Same thing with the audits. If they don’t like an audit finding, they can simply replace the auditor. Conflict of interest? DUH!. Yet, nobody is willing to address these obvious conflicts or the inevitable results of such conflicts—like a collapsing financial system.
Republicans oversaw the collapse of the entire economy in 1929. Republicans oversaw the collapse of the entire S&L industry (remember George H.W. Bush?). Now Republicans are overseeing the collapse of the entire US mortgage market and the financial system that both created that collapse and now suffer from its own greed-induced failures.
Now, John McCain promises to turn over our Social Security system to the kind of people who managed and produced the financial system collapse. With a straight face, John McCain asks us to trust him and trust these same financial geniuses to “save” the Social Security system.
“There’s a sucker born every minute,” and John McCain is asking for their votes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

At the Fair

County Fairs are always interesting events. Carol and I worked at the Democratic Party booth at the fair one evening. Mainly, it’s an information sharing event. People come by and we try to provide them with information they seem to need or want. Some people just want a visible symbol of their chosen preference—a sticker, maybe a yard sign, or a bumper sticker.
A few people came by and needed to register to vote. We were able to accommodate them by providing them with a registration form. Mostly, the people who stopped at the booth seemed both worried and enthusiastic about the campaign—worried about the possibility of the “Drill Baby Drill” forces once again overwhelming the voices of reason. Neither McCain nor Palin seem able to grasp the significance of the energy problem. Perhaps they are both that captive to the oil and gas lobby, clearly a favorite for Republicans. Palin likes to pretend to be one of the forces for change, but she seems simply a person caught in the web of the oil and gas enterprises that have dominated republicans, and even now threaten the entire management of the Department of the Interior. The scandals there fairly reek of crony capitalism of the kind pursued with such vigor by VEEP Cheney.
Whether our concerned voters will see a fresh breeze blow through the land is too soon to tell, but their enthusiasm was refreshing to see.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lying Liars

Lying. Why do the American people seem to like being lied to?
For eight years now, we have been subjected to a torrent of lies from the Bush Administration about the war in Iraq, about our relative fiscal solvency (not), about the environment and global warming, about the relative need for greater regulation of our financial institutions (remember the S&L collapse under daddy Bush?), about public education, and about just about every aspect of our foreign policy and international relations. Now, in the midst of the silly season, the McCain team is gearing up for more lies about their record. McCain the “maverick” now embraces almost every element of the Bush-Republican legacy, but he says he espouses change, borrowing from the Obama campaign shamelessly. He is in favor of more tax cuts that will enlarge the national debt by more than a trillion dollars more than Obama’s tax policies. He favors staying in Iraq for a century if necessary, despite the fact that we should never have been there to begin with. He wants us to endorse him because he is a former POW.
And we are now subjected to an amazing display of chutzpah regarding the pit bull. She was against the Bridge to Nowhere, except she was for it until it became a political liability. Then she opposed it, but she took the money anyway. We know little about her record, because mainly it is so barren, and we are not allowed to ask questions, because it would be sexist to do so. She apparently gets her directions for policy directly from God (sounds familiar somehow) and we are not allowed to question her 12th century mindset.
But the American public seems poised to accept the fact that the Republicans will shamelessly lie to them, even perhaps to insisting on the lies. We seem to have grown used to the lies and now demand more. Tell us what we want to hear. Let’s make believe we are still a great nation. As we march back to the age of unenlightenment, let us remember where we are all headed anyway.
Will the Obama campaign be able to counter this patent nonsense from the Republicans? We’ll know in only eight weeks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Shift in the Center of the Science Universe

CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) has been getting considerable play in the European press, and other enlightened places around the globe. With the recent conclusion of tests on its new Large Hadron Collider, the facility is poised to begin tests that may rock the world of physics.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionize our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.
Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyze the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.
This new particle accelerator promises to bring new insights into the formation of the universe, unless you subscribe to Intelligent Design, which holds that God wagged his forefinger and everything was just “created.”
Up until the 1990s, the United States was in the forefront of science in this field. Then, apparently, we decided that this whole field was just too expensive and we had other priorities. As a result, the world of physics transferred to Europe. It is of course, our loss, although we clearly have other things to do, such as stamp out the fires being created daily by the Neo-Cons. To be fair, it probably was not Shrub who dumped the field. After all, he can’t even pronounce nuclear; how could he possibly understand its importance? But it is too bad, nonetheless. It is one more sign that we are losing our edge in science.
I keep hoping for some sign of a turnaround. Clearly a McCain-Palin Administration won’t provide one. They want to return us to the dark ages. I remain cautiously optimistic: enlightenment is possible, folks. Just grab the gold ring as the carousel turns. Eight years of the stupid people is enough, thank you. Let’s try some smart people for a change.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

It Just Keeps Getting Better

It would seem the more we learn about Mayor Palin, also Commander in Chief of the Alaska National Guard, the more interesting she becomes. It is now reported that as Mayor, she asked the local librarian whether she would be ok with book censorship, implying of course, that the Mayor would be the chief censor. The librarian said, "Hmmm, well no, I would not be ok with that." No librarian worthy of the title is ok with book censorship. They select books according to national standards, and they naturally resist the darker impulses of local pols to inject their own standards.
So, the Mayor decided to fire the librarian . . . for not showing the proper loyalty. She also decided to fire other career people.
Now, how does that play out on the national level? The Feds have something called the Hatch Act, intended to separate the employees who have been hired as career people on the basis of actual qualifications, from the political appointees who are hired on the basis of loyalty to the politicos. Mayor Palin apparently doesn't understand this concept, much as she apparently doesn't understand this thing about separation of church and state.
We know that the Bushies didn't get these concepts either, so Mayor Palin would probably fit right into the Republican machine.
I wonder what other little nasties we might expect as more information is published about the soccer mom/pit bull with lipstick picked by our fearless POW Big MAC?
Wonder what she thinks about book burnings?
Stay tuned.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Circus Ends With a Dull Thud

Finally, the political circus is over. And an awful one it was. It makes me wonder just who gets to go to these conventions. That chanting , “drill now, drill now” all seemed a bit crazed, perhaps in keeping with the lipstick-wearing pit bull hockey mom who seemed to so thrill the assembled conventioneers. A scary bunch indeed.
And Big Mac has now embraced virtually everything he had so firmly rejected in his last outing as a candidate. The “Agents of Intolerance” have been transmogrified, and seem even scarier than I always thought they were originally. The "maverick" now supports creationism, deficits ad nauseum, and oil drilling everywhere-- drill, drill, drill, regardless of the effects on either the environment, or the actual eventual supply of fuel. Maybe prayer will deliver us all from the Arab grip on "our" oil.
It made me wonder how we had come to this pass. How could we embrace such clearly wrong-headed solutions? What ever happened to American ingenuity, that sense that we would always devise some real solution to our problems? Now, we seem stuck in some time warp, unable to examine anything from scratch. Maybe that’s what happened to that pathetic bunch in Detroit. While the Japanese and the Europeans were out and about creating cars for the 21st century, Detroit has been rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Seems entirely suitable for this republican governance.
A McCain-Palin presidency scares me greatly, she perhaps even more than Big MAC. But apparently, any criticism of her is considered by the rabid Reps off limits. That she has managed to leapfrog all the other potential women candidates with actual experience is not to be mentioned. Everyone has leaped on her lack of foreign policy experience. As scary as that is (I ignore the terminally stupid assertions that because Alaska is near Russia, she has experience), I find that she really has no experience at anything that resembles what we might want in a potential President. Shooting moose, or shooting wolves from an airplane are not high on my set of criteria for president. She seems a fairly typical small-town Alaska product, where she made, no doubt, a nice mayor. That she wants to teach “Intelligent Design” in our school systems is one her scarier ideas. But it goes along with her whole image—a retrograde mind set in a frontier body mold. She might have been great were this 1867.
What was he thinking?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bottomless Barrel Theory

For a while, I actually expected Big Mac to burst out of some closet on stage at the Reps convention, laughing hysterically, and saying, “hahahahaha, I gotcha. You all really thought I had designated Sarah Palin as my VEEP pick. Hahahahahahahahaha.”
But no such luck. Then I was hoping for someone at least firmly rooted in the 21st century, since Big Mac’s brain is firmly rooted somewhere in 1973, still trying to figure out how to win the Vietnam War. People criticize him for not being Internet-savvy. But there was no Internet in 1973, and he hasn’t yet re-emerged.
So, some 21st century person, man or woman, would have been expected. But to reach back to a solid 12th century gal. Hmmm. That is really surprising. I mean, I know that the First Barbie understands 21st century pork. She certainly got the hang of that as mayor and then governor. But she wants to see our public schools teach Intelligent design, aka Biology 101 for the Stupid People. That really scares me. I know that the Reps have been busily trying to dismantle most of the middle class infrastructure over the past eight years. It now seems clear that the designers of that effort extend beyond just Shrub and his entourage of camp followers.
So, I expect to see an effort by Big Mac and the First Barbie to either scrap our public schools altogether, in favor of public vouchers aimed at Christian madrassas, or that they intend to eliminate Federal public funding altogether. Intelligent design. Wow.
And then there’s the issue of political appointees. If Big Mac was as cavalier about his VEEP selection as he was apparently, we should expect more of the same from him for the Federal cabinet posts and, lest we forget, his Supreme Court nominees (think Harriet Myers). It’s fast headed down from here, and we thought it couldn’t get any worse.
When I worked briefly in the Federal Government under Carter and Reagan, my colleague and I developed a theory about the political life of our Government. We called it “The Bottomless Barrel” theory. The theory goes like this. If you observe the political appointees of one administration, you will begin to imagine that they couldn’t possibly get any worse. Then in comes the next administration to prove you wrong. They create a whole new bottom level to the barrel. We decided that the primary job of every incoming political administration was to make the last one look good. Shrub really redefined that theory, as he did in every aspect of his presidency. Even some of his hacks couldn’t take it any longer and jumped ship. Big Mac is poised to take over and run everything further down hill.
Is this a great country or what??
138 days remaining.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Storm Chasers

So, Big Mac and his First Barbie lost not a moment, zooming down to Mississippi to let his adoring fans know that he is up the job of First Storm-Chaser. The actual Prez and his snarling watch dog VP have cancelled their trip to the Twin Cities, and Big Mac is assuring everyone that things will be ok now that he and the Prez are on the job (think, “heckuva job Brownie”).
Leaves me wondering about where Big Mac will deliver his acceptance speech. I’m thinking a battleship anchored off the coast in the Gulf, with a big banner, saying something inspired like, oh I don’t know, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED”. I mean, I can see it now. Those great big guns pointing skyward, protecting us all, a huge American flag flying, and Big Mac standing underneath the gun turrets accepting with humility his party’s nomination. “Take that Obama and your big stadium speech.”
Now, I don’t know what is more annoying, the sheer chutzpah of Big Mac uttering his somber assessment that, “it’s in God’s hands now”, or the yapping, slightly crazed press people, the media camp followers, who seem to be actively urging the candidates to go to New Orleans, as though they had something to do with rescuing or evacuating people. That’s the job of our idiot president guys. Remember him .. . the one who played while Katrina roared??
I think Obama got it right—“we will stay out of the way, so as not to interfere.”
I’m thinking too that this is a huge break for the Neo-Cons. Now, they can get on with their Big Mac parade and not have to pretend to be looking elsewhere when the White House idiots showed up. They must have been frantic about how best to hide during any speeches or even appearances by Bush and Cheney. Now they can relax and let their small-minded god punish New Orleans yet again. I’m thinking here, of course, about that malenfant Falwell who managed to create God in his own image, when he said that 9/11 and Katrina were God’s way of punishing homos and other (Liberal) evil-doers. . That’s the ultimate way for a little man to create a God who looks and acts like him. He’s saying, “see I’m a petty minded little creep, and my God would act just like me.” What a way to trivialize God.
Let the games begin, and bring on those storms.