Monday, November 28, 2011

The Season

The season is nigh . . .
Which season you might ask? The season of good cheer, high hopes, a touch of snow, and large credit card expenditures.  Black Friday has passed and Black Cyber-Monday is almost finished. We can only hope that Americans have gotten over their grief at being screwed by the Nation’s bankers, and have decided to buy more Chinese crap anyway.  Apparently our entire economic future depends on Americans being willing to suspend disbelief and buy more stuff this month.  Only then will we emerge from this dreadful thing called (by some) The Great Depression II.  Let’s hope.

In the meantime, the Republican hopeless-hopefuls will continue battling amongst themselves for idiot of the month. This month, we are assured, the Newtster has regained the crown, having achieved the dubious distinction of being anointed by the New Hampshire Union Leader as candidate of the month. In their endorsement, they said, apparently without intending to be funny:
We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing... A lot of candidates say they're going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again,"

Oh, yeah, I guess that’s when he shut down the government in 1995.
But maybe, said he hopefully, the Season can go on with only minimal interference from the idiot parade. Maybe Santa will still arrive on his sleigh with his 8 tiny reindeer to treat the nation’s children to the good cheer and happiness we used to associate with The Season in days of yore—it could happen. I do so hope. The little ones need this infusion of normalcy, and we big ones also need to be able to pretend again, even if for just a little while.  I know, I know, 2012 is then just around the corner, and the parade of idiots will recommence, to even more vicious standards, to the extent they have any standards at all.
But in the meantime, let’s all turn on the lights, decorate the trees, dream of snow, and buy, buy, buy.  And if you have a neighbor in need, or see someone who needs a hand, lend yours. Our communities are filled with families who have little and are barely getting by. So, reach out and give a hand folks. Your gestures of good will may be just the ticket to turn a sad season into a happy one.  Even if you’re not a billionaire, try to make someone else feel happy.
Get in the spirit, folks, and stop thinking about politics, even for just a little while . . .

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

The season is upon us. That season within which we are given to understand that peace is near, or perhaps it surrounds us, were we only smart enough to understand.

Thanksgiving is a peculiar celebration. On the one hand, it is a celebration that the nation’s Pilgrim ancestors managed to survive, and perhaps even to prosper. The Pilgrims needed to survive the winters, potentially hostile critters, and the actual Native Americans who did not yet understand the intent of the incoming European hordes.  There were not yet bankers roaming the land looking for ways to steal from them. But they survived, and led us to this land of plenty.
So, it is a time to give thanks for the plenty in our lives, and, in our case, we have much to be thankful for. Given the state of the world, we are fortunate that we live in a place that is based, sometimes, on  law, and on civil values . . . sometimes.  King Bloomberg in New York is trying his best to stamp out such foolishness. For the time being, the police seem to be on his side . . . for the time being.
But we do not live in the police state of Manhattan. Here in Concord, life for us is still peaceful. Despite the best intent of America’s bankers to rob us of our retirement assets, our financial planner has been diligent, and some money still survives. So, we must also give thanks to Mr. Keith Riley for his due diligence.
We will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal worthy, at least, of the nation’s ancestors—the Pilgrims. Surely, our groaning board exceeds anything they enjoyed, for this is still the land of plenty.
Our children and our grandchildren are healthy and prosper in most useful ways.  We give thanks for that and we wish our friends and family all that is good in the world. May life be fair to you in this holiday season.
And to all, Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All the News . . .

Opening the newspaper lately practically requires one to be either stoned, or equipped with a large flagon of wine, preferably red. This morning, for example: Joe Paterno and his partner in crime, the President of Penn State, have been fired.  Well good, I thought. They most closely resemble those Catholic Bishops and Cardinals, and their Nazi Pope, who thought it Ok to ignore the sexual abuse of young, vulnerable kids.

Then there was Italy. Turns out that Mister Sarkozy and Ms. Merkel have been discussing Europe without the Italians. Yeah, Mr. Berlusconi and his buddies in Rome are getting to be, well, hmmm . . . unaffordable. Italy seems to be going the way of Greece . . . and Ireland . . . and Portugal . . . Except that Italy’s too big, so they could well bring down the whole show. So, maybe Europe could be a Northern thing, without the pizza and spaghetti.
Oh, and then there’s that little notice that the Dover Mortuary—that’s the place where our dead serviceman arrive back into the US, after having been killed defending the US of A.—well that mortuary has been dumping remains of our  dead loved ones in a landfill. Yeah . . . a landfill. Oh and they forgot to tell anyone about their little practice. Nice huh? Nothing like the military honoring its fallen heroes.
On the environmental front, China is at it again: In the run-up to the international climate negotiations in Durban later this month, China has responded to efforts to ban the trading of widely discredited HFC-23 offsets by threatening to release huge amounts of the potent industrial chemical into the atmosphere unless other nations pay what amounts to a climate ransom.  In a shocking attempt to blackmail the international community, Xie Fei, revenue management director at the China Clean Development Mechanism Fund, threatened: "If there's no trading of [HFC-23] credits, they'll stop incinerating the gases" and vent them directly into the atmosphere. Speaking at the Carbon Forum Asia in Singapore last week, Xie Fei claimed he spoke for "almost all the big Chinese producers of HFCs who "can't bear the cost" and maintain that "they'll lose competitiveness".  Wow, what great guys. Walmart, aren’t you proud to be one of their biggest sponsors??
And then there’s that one about Rick Perry who had three major points to make about Federal agencies he would immediately eliminate, except he could only remember two of them. Yeah, Texans must be so proud of their guy. And that one makes me wonder whether it’s true that someone has invented a new game. Remember that one called, “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” Well, the new game will be called, “Are you smarter than a republican presidential candidate?” The game has been designed for third-fifth grade reading levels.
But I digress . . . maybe a big pull on the flagon will make all the day's stories blend together into  some nice foggy short story - - - you know of the fiction variety . . . .
Oh, but I neglected to include one of the biggest ones. You know how Pat Roberts and others of his ilk are always saying that God is displaying his displeasure at some part of America by tossing  hurricanes, or an earthquake at us?? Well, I'm thinking that God must be really pissed at Alaskans, because she has now tossed one of the biggest storms on memory at Alaska . . . just to send them a message about their support for Sarah Barbie . . . Wonder whether Juneau will just sink into the sea like one of their glaciers???

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Awareness of Today

Yesterday, just before going off to the land of wink and nod, I thought about the day.  What kind of a day had it been? Well, we went to our usual very early workout at the Y, We had voted earlier, so we didn't need to go to the polls. We managed to place the net over our pond, in advance of the coming big leaf drop from our oak trees.  And I had printed a couple more artsy family calendars for the coming New Year of 2012. Not a bad day, I thought.
Increasingly, as I age a bit more each day, I have begun thinking more about each day, and how it is necessary to examine the day, to see whether it was in some way meaningful. I have become acutely aware, as part of the aging process, that life is just a sequence of days and that, if we rush through a day without paying attention, we are thereby not paying attention to our very life.
I don't really think we all need to do something big every day, just that we need to think about each day. Mostly, I observe people ignoring their days, perhaps always looking forward to something that will be happening later. But, since we are always in the present, it is now that we need to pay attention. Otherwise, we risk losing our lives to the future.
I often see a neighbor who seems to stand outside smoking, I guess because his partner does not allow him to smoke indoors. But I note also that he and his partner seem never to do anything. They seem to me to be "taking up space" on this planet, without ever contributing anything.  And that seems a shame, because someday they will cease taking up space, and then what? What would their lives have meant . . . to them or to anyone else?
I don't pretend to any knowledge about what life is all about. Unlike some of our counterfeit republican presidential candidates, God has chosen not to speak with me directly.  I guess I'm not special enough. So, on this big question of what life is all about, I plead ignorance.  But I do know that we each have a finite number of minutes on this planet, and it seems wise not to simply waste them.
So, each day, I will think ahead and behind a bit to decide what kind of a day I had and will have ahead of me. Because thinking about it will increase my awareness of life and how precious it is. We dare not waste it, because we may not be back this way again . . . unless you're a Hindu and still somewhere in the middle of finding Nirvana.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Banking & Gambling

See, it’s not so hard . . . MF Global has entered that hell called bankruptcy. And we the people are going to just let it be.  No bailouts. No rush to stabilize the firm.  Just let it go the way of all things. They were gamblers who gambled and lost. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Now, it we can only let the others go as well.
Assume for a start that any “trading firm” is akin to the Las Vegas gambling organizations . . . sort of like the Mafia, but not as skilled.  Force them to label themselves as gamblers—you know, like Morgan Stanley Gamblers, Inc. Then the public will know what they are doing when sending them money to “invest”.
Then establish rating agencies that rate the investment vehicles these firms try routinely to flog.  If the investment portfolios are too complex to rate, the rating agencies have to declare,  We cannot untangle the mess they are trying to sell to the public, so  this investment portfolio belongs in the category called “Caveat Emptor”. “ The rating agencies and all auditing firms would be financed by contracts with the government, paid for by fees charged by the government to the firms being rated/audited. Both the rating agencies and the audit firms would have to be changed every, say, three years to avoid becoming corrupted by the gambling firms. It might also be a good idea to make it mandatory that the broker-gamblers (those trying to flog their deals to the public) would have to buy into these same portfolios.
Then take all “banks” out of the gambling business. We would, of course, have to define what is meant by “gambling”. Loaning money to a couple who wish to buy a first home would not be “gambling”, strictly speaking.  Also, loaning money to someone who wishes to start a business would not be classified as “gambling”.  I assume that smart people (people not working in the banking industry) could define the difference between gambling and investing.
Looking at the Eurozone mess that finally crashed MF Global, it might be smart to take private banks out of the business of financing other governments.  Maybe it should be the case that loans to foreign governments would be the province of governments. If Greece wants a loan of $50 billion, maybe that should be debated in Congress and then the US Treasury would be the lender of last resort. MF-Global Gamblers, Inc. should probably not be in that business.
Then finally, there’s the issue of banks “too big to fail.” We need to define that term carefully, Then we should divide the world of banking into two categories—“banks too big to fail” and “all other banks.” All banks in the first category should be “restructured”, i.e., broken up into, say, tenths. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about them failing—if they fail, well, they had a good run. Get me a beer hon . . .
And on exoplanet-Cain, we see that the current front runner must have been studying the Clarence Thomas hearings carefully.  And we know how well that has turned out for America.