Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vice President Cheney Nullifies Presidential Election: Declares Himself President

At 1 a.m., on December 31, 2008, Vice President Dick Cheney called a press conference to announce that he had nullified the results of the presidential election and had declared himself president. He said that, "The country is facing too many crises to be able to survive the inexperience of formerly President-elect Barack Obama. Only a person with my experience and skill will be able to guide the country for the next eight years." When asked by shocked and horrified reporters, what basis or authority did he have to do this, he replied, "I gave myself the necessary authority." Karl Rove, who was at the back of the room during this announcement, nodded sagaciously.

President Bush who was awakened by the Secret Service to be informed of this announcement reportedly said, "Hunh?" Laura Bush was reported to have said, "Let the damn fool to try to do it." After he finished his brief announcement, Vice President Cheney introduced two army colonels who reportedly backed his coup d'état. My inside source at the White House, Omar Fishbein Muhammed, said that no general in any of the services was willing to support this bizarre attempt at usurping the power of the presidency. When President-elect Barack Obama was informed of Vice President Cheney's announcement he reportedly said that he had dispatched Joe Biden to help arrange for appropriate psychiatric care for the vice president.

In Hollywood, Paris Hilton volunteered to be the vice president's personal nurse, and see to it that he is restored to his full mental health, or what remains of it. Senator John McCain said he had suspended his campaign and was rushing to Washington to be of help in this new crisis. Mrs. Cheney was unavailable for comment, and was last seen boarding a plane for Abu Dhabi.

Monday, December 29, 2008

People Mindlessly Willing to Inflict Pain

A recent study showed that people will inflict pain on someone just because a person in authority tells them to do so. There is much good in people but there is a mindless cruel side. Mindless following of instructions can happen in any society.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caroline Kennedy U.S. Senator?: No Way!

There has been a great deal of opposition expressed about the possible appointment of Caroline Kennedy as a United States Senator to replace Hillary Clinton. This is rightfully so because she has no legislative experience and has held no political office. Her main qualification appears to be that her last name is Kennedy, and she carries the DNA of the former president. What could she possibly offer the people of the State of New York? Does the fact that she is highly intelligent, ethical, and able to comprehend a wide variety of complex issues have any bearing? Are these sufficient qualifications to be appointed United States Senator? Absolutely not! What about the fact that she has written two books, co-authored with Ellen Alderman, related to constitutional rights? Irrelevant, totally irrelevant. Of greater importance is whether she has a list of all the important interest groups in New York State.

Ms. Kennedy has no background or experience in dissembling on important issues. She also has little if any experience in correcting a previously inaccurate statement she had made to the press or media. It's also highly likely she has no experience with one of the most important political issues of our time, working with corporate lobbyists. She's likely to be an independent-minded person voting on issues based on the merits rather than on the important input from highly paid former members of Congress who are trying to buy her vote. We can't afford to have too many people like this in Congress. If our elected representatives don't take money from lobbyists it would put these poor people out of work. Lastly, it's unlikely she has any experience at all with bribery, either as a recipient or a giver. The importance of this issue can be demonstrated by what is happening in the state of Illinois.

The people of the State of New York are entitled to senators who are not only qualified for the office, but have the same set of ethical and moral values. Former Governor Eliot Spitzer could speak at length to this issue. Favoritism and nepotism must be nipped in the bud so that if one of the Bush daughters is ever elected president we can be sure that she earned it

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gasoline Prices: Laughing While We Can

When the price of gasoline was over four dollars a gallon no one was smiling. Now, when the price of a gallon of gasoline is under a $1.75, depending upon where you live, people can breathe a bit easier when they fill up their cars. While no one expects gasoline prices to remain this low permanently, it is hard to predict how fast and how high prices will rise. Startlingly enough, the number of miles driven by Americans continues to go down even while the price of gasoline is much lower.

It's the economy stupid. Increasingly larger numbers of people are either getting laid off, or having their hours of work reduced. Most Americans have less money as a result of the decline in whatever investments they had, if they had any. The recession, which is worldwide in nature, has resulted in reduced demand in almost all countries. As a result, OPEC, which has always functioned better when prices were rising as opposed to falling, can't seem to cut oil production quick enough to match falling demand. As a result, many experts are predicting that the price of a gallon of oil may fall as low as $25 a barrel. Oil-producing countries which generated budgets based on $90-$100 a barrel oil are experiencing significant budget shortfalls and cutting production with falling prices only makes the problem worse. It's hard to imagine anyone in America are crying for Venezuela (or is it Argentina?), and certainly not for Iran or any Middle Eastern sandbox that got rich selling oil.

What we cannot afford to do is wait for the price of oil to rise again draining billions of dollars from our economy and going into the coffers of countries that bear us little goodwill. We must proceed with wind driven energy projects, all electrical cars, hybrid cars, and all other possibilities that will decrease our use of gasoline. The omission of ethanol was not an accident because this project has been a farce in terms of not saving energy costs and costing the American public billions of dollars in subsidies to businesses that didn't need such subsidies. Lower gasoline prices combined with the current economic situation will likely produce headwinds for alternative energy projects. However, the next president has his head on straight about this issue, and will not allow the country to be diverted from the all-important task of a comprehensive energy policy. While the president doesn't owe big oil anything, there are too many in Congress who are deep in the pockets of big oil. This is where alternative energy projects are likely to be slowed down. "Drill, drill, drill baby" is a hollow mantra that will do little to solve the long-term energy needs of this country.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Costs of Illegal Immigration and Current Economic Crisis

Illegal immigration was one of the most contentious and important issues facing this country. I say "was" because the current economic crises has pushed this issue to the back burner, so to speak. Almost all of the issues cited below, that arise when illegal immigration is discussed, are still relevant. However, cost factors involved in the illegal immigration become increasingly important when the federal, state, and local governments are all losing significant revenues. Funding for vital programs, including the maintenance of roads and other infrastructure has been lost, and "hard" discussions are undoubtedly taking place throughout the nation about paying for services for illegal immigrants when funding is not available for necessary services for the citizens of this country.

One new factor is that because he illegal immigrants are finding it more difficult to obtain jobs many are returning to Mexico, although no one has a way of approximating such numbers at this time.

A key aspect of the debate and disagreement on illegal immigration relates to its costs. Based on my review of six studies I came to the conclusion that no one really knows the cost of illegal immigration. There are two main problems. Almost all of the studies purporting to document the cost of illegal immigration are written by groups with a particular point of view. I will say more about this later. Secondly, the economic benefits of the illegal immigrants in this country have typically not been adequately addressed.

The Eagle Forum produced a well-documented report addressing many of the cost factors in illegal immigration. However, it is important to know that the Eagle Forum has been a leading advocate for the pro-family movement since 1972 and is therefore not without its biases. The report is worth reading if you are interested in more details about this issue. The Center for Immigration Studies sponsored a report written by Stephen Camorata written in 2004. This report focused on the "High Cost of Cheap Labor." It is important to know that The Center for Immigration Studies is a Pro-immigrant, think-tank which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted. The report is important because it addresses the cost-benefit aspect of illegal immigration, which has all too frequently been neglected.

Some of the costs of illegal immigrants are obvious and indisputable. Examples of these include costs incurred by hospitals, costs incurred by the states and federal government to incarcerate illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, and costs to local school systems.

Mr. Camorata documents important "benefit" issues such as the fact that, "On average, illegal households pay more than $4,200 a year in all forms of federal taxes. Unfortunately, they impose costs of $6,950 per household.” It is important to note that in addressing taxes paid by illegal immigrants Camorata neglects to factor in sales taxes paid for food, clothing and other purchases made by illegal immigrants and property taxes paid by the illegal immigrants. The reduced cost of services and products as a result of the cheap labor provided by the illegal immigrants has a significant but unknowable effect on the overall cost of living in this country. This had been particularly true in the construction of housing where many illegal immigrants are employed. With the tremendous decline in the number of new houses being built it would be interesting to know if the proportion of workers building these houses who are illegal immigrants has changed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Detroit’s Downturn: It’s the Productivity, Stupid

With management that could never see the future, and labor unions that would never let go of the past, the failure of big automotive companies in Detroit was a disaster long in the making. In an insightful article, Rand Simberg, points out that union rules regarding productivity, or the lack thereof, have been a critical factor in the failure of Detroit's ability to compete. Americans can make excellent cars, as has been proven by the fact that the Toyotas and Honda is that many Americans drive were built in this country. But these factories weren't hampered by union rules designed to featherbed and otherwise obstruct the process of being competitive.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Miley Cyrus Disappointed?

The question on the minds of most Americans, and billions of people throughout the world, is whether Miley Cyrus was disappointed when she didn't get a new Mercedes-Benz on her birthday. The people of planet Earth can breathe easier because Miley was satisfied to get her mother's used Porsche. It was a hard blow for Miley to accept, but she did so with the grace and poise that everyone expects from her. It's difficult for 16-year-old girls not to get exactly what they want for their birthday. It's especially disappointing to get a used car.

My inside source in Hollywood, Elsie Goodfeel, reported that there was a special condition attached to Miley receiving the Porsche. Miley is to be appropriately dressed at all times while driving, whether in Hollywood, or the real world. Elsie he couldn’t verify whether a string bikini counted as being appropriately dressed in Hollywood. In the rest of the world wearing a string bikini would not be considered appropriately dressed. Miley's image is of utmost importance since her less than fully clothed photo shoot scandal last year. Her image will continue to be important as long as she is under age eighteen or works for Disney. There is some fear, that after Miley passes age eighteen and no longer works for Disney, that she will succumb to the influences on such notorious role models as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

In the meantime, we'll all stay tuned to the further adventures of Miley Cyrus.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Great Recession of 2008 and Collective National Stupidity

Now that the great recession has officially arrived its easy to look back and blame the all the people that were involved in loans that people couldn't pay, the institutions that bundled these loans into toxic packages of so-called assets, and all the people whot thought that housing prices would rise forever. But it isn't that simple, because the vast majority of the people in this country contributed in one way or another to the economic crisis in which we find ourselves. If you think you weren't involved, think again, because you probably were. Consider the following questions:

Did you buy a house you couldn't really afford, but assumed that future salary increases would eventually make the house of affordable?

Were you spending more money then you earned?

Do you have new, or almost new, clothing in your closet that you never wore?

Do you live in a house that had more than 1000 square-feet per person?

Are you paying more than $100 a month on credit card debt?

Did you do impulse shopping and buy things that you didn't really need?

Do you drive a gas guzzling car?

Did you think that the value of your house was always going to increase?

Did you take out a new mortgage on your house so that you could have extra money to spend on something that wasn't a necessity?

Did you buy a condominium or second house so that you could "flip it" and make money.

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you were either directly or indirectly involved in the current economic crisis. If you answered yes to three or more of these questions you should be sentenced to three counseling sessions with Susie Orman. All of the above constituted the Collective National Stupidity that led to the current economic recession.

How could buying a few things that we didn't really need to contribute to the recession? Easy. We became a nation of shoppers on an endless buying spree that eventually had to end in a catastrophic bust. Counties, cities, and states became dependent upon sales taxes which would one day drop off a cliff. That day is here now. Companies built more stores so that we didn't have to travel far to buy things we didn't really need. When we stopped buying things in abundance, stores began to close. People lost jobs, and companies went bankrupt, which resulted in defaulted loans at banks. And finally, banks stopped loaning money.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

William Ayres Speaks out

During the recent presidential campaign William Ayres was made a focus of the efforts to raise questions about President-elect Obama. Mr. Ayres had once been a member of the weather underground, a radical organization that engaged in acts of defiance against the government in protest against the Vietnam War. By the time the McCain campaign was finished, Mr. Ayres was painted as a violent revolutionary who was a threat to the American way of life. President-elect Obama was linked to Mr. Ayres on the flimsiest of relationships. Unfortunately, this type of slash and burn tactic has become part of presidential politics. Even more unfortunately, Mr. Ayres was made to be something he wasn't. His column in the New York Times after the election is well over gives a clearer picture of who he is and what his relationship with President Obama was.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Depressing Recession Is Finally Acknowledged

The people in charge of measuring such things have finally declared that we are in a recession. What was their first clue? The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy? Hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs? The stock market declining by over 35%? No. The number crunchers and bean counters had to do their thing and tell us that the recession started last December. There is something bizarre about the way the federal government continues to go about its business of handling and describing the economy. It's almost enough to make you lose your faith in government.

Now that the recession is official, the next order of business is comparing it to all the other recessions and estimating how long the current recession will be. A number of official and unofficial sources have already stated that this recession will be worse than probably all the other recessions since the Great Depression. Again, what was their first clue? The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the disappearance of Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and the near disappearance of the rest of the great brokerage houses might have given them an inkling that the economy was in very bad shape. The great brokerage houses didn't go broke during the great depression, probably because they hadn't had the opportunity to create trillions of dollars of “bad assets."

How can an asset to be bad? Easy. That's when an asset is really a liability. It's very similar to giving a mortgage to someone who can't pay it back. Of course the brokerage houses and the giant national banks told us that the assets weren't bad at first. Then they admitted they were slightly bad, but we shouldn't worry. At the same time, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bernanke and Secretary of the treasury Paulson were also telling us that things weren't that bad. When enough people tell you that things aren't that bad it's time to really worry. We all have denial in our personal lives, but when denial takes place on a national level, it's generally a catastrophe.

The official acknowledgment of the recession comes at a time when the people of this country are supposed to be spending themselves into oblivion for the holidays. The spending orgy this year is likely to be much smaller than previous years. The greatest gift that people can give themselves for the holidays is remembering what's truly important in life. Relationships and family are precious and can't be purchased in any store.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sex, Sex, and More Sex: Getting Our Minds off the Economy

Sex, Sex, and More Sex: Getting Our Mind off the Economy

For many months we have been hearing about the worsening state of the economy, which is now in a significant recession. We have watched our investments shrivel up, our neighbors lose their homes, and we are told the worst is yet to come. It is important for everyone to have some enjoyment in life and not live in a perpetual state of gloom. This post will focus on one of the nation's favorite pastimes, and the best way we know of to keep the population growing, sex. This post is also intended for those people who enjoy having sex, or at least want to give it a try.

Recently, a minister in Grapevine Texas urged his married couples to have sex all week long. Minister Ed Young said, “In these days of financial crisis, rampant divorce and debates over same-sex marriage, it's time to turn the whining into whoopee." I couldn’t agree more. He went on to say, “Sex is like Super Glue. It's a spiritual thing, an emotional thing.” I’m not so sure about the super glue metaphor. It creates an image of two people physically, not emotionally bonded to each other. A lot of the functions of daily life could become problematical if two people were super glued to each other. This kind of exhortation of the congregation to have more sex is not unprecedented. Earlier this year a minister in Florida encouraged his congregation to have 30 days of sex. I let my few readers decide if that’s pushing the envelope.

Recent research has found that even thinking about sex has beneficial health effects. In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, `Karen Weatherbee stated, “Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms on the well endowed female is roughly equivalent to 30 minutes of aerobic workout.” The article went on to state that this improves blood circulation and can extend a man’s life by as much as five years. Hugh Hefner’s whole life purpose has just been vindicated. Maybe men can get a prescription from their doctor making the purchase of Playboy magazine a medical deduction.

A Forbes magazine article cites many significant physical benefits of having sex. Among them, “Immediately before orgasm, levels of the hormone oxytocin surge to five times their normal level. This in turn releases endorphins, which alleviate the pain of everything from headache to arthritis to even migraines. In women, sex also prompts production of estrogen, which can reduce the pain of PMS.” Wow! Evidence that sex cures headaches and doesn’t cause them.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama Takes Control

In the face of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, President Bush has gone missing in inaction. At the same time, Secretary of the Treasury Paulsen, who at times appeared to be running the country, is doing his own thing and giving evidence that he can't wait to get out. When President-elect Obama said that there can only be one president at a time, he was obviously correct. What he didn't realize at the time was that it would be soon necessary for him to become the de facto president until he was formally sworn in. He has begun to introduce his programs, and made it clear that he expects the stimulus package to be implemented before he is sworn in. If implemented, the nation can hope the stimulus package works better than the $700 billion bailout that was supposed to unfreeze the credit markets.

Fear is pervasive in the country as a great recession is upon us. One of the most important things that Obama can do is give the people a sense that someone is in charge and there is some hope. Hope is not a solution for the problems that beset this country, but the absence of hope is desperation which will only make the problems worse. By all appearances Obama has put together an "economic team" of experts, and will not hesitate to utilize the expertise of persons in business and finance. Currently, we have Paulsen and Bernanke talking with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, which scares the hell out of me. Barney Frank, for those who forget, is one of the people who helped turn Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loose to become financially bankrupt. While the Republicans were largely responsible for much of the deregulation that led to the current economic crisis, the Democrats were all too eager to implement a philosophy where everyone was entitled to own a home of their own. Utter nonsense! Owning a home isn't a right, it's not guaranteed in the Constitution, nor did Thomas Jefferson ever refer to it in the Declaration of Independence.

Among the things Obama needs to do is to is work with, and give direction to, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and other liberal Democrats. None of these people are capable of running the country, and collectively all of them are capable of running it into the ground. A better metaphor might be a nautical one. If the country were likened to a ship at sea, its financial and economic systems are taking on water and in danger of sinking. Responsible programs, not just any programs, need to be put in place. Someone needs to be in charge and make sure all the pieces fit together. So far Obama seems to be doing a good job. But what he has done is a drop in the bucket compared to what he will have to do. He has commendably surrounded himself with very capable people. This was the relatively easy part. Now comes the hard part of tackling the enormous problems and making things better, not worse.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama Speaks: Is America Listening?

The interview with President-elect Obama and his wife on 60 minutes, was very interesting. He talked about the importance of the free market system, and as best as I can recollect, he didn't even give a hint of turning America into a socialist state. So much for campaign rhetoric, and right wing paranoia. He seems remarkably poised and balanced, qualities which he will need during what will be a very stressful presidency. He will also need these qualities to deal with the near messianic expectations that more than a few people have formed of him. The picture of him as the new FDR gives evidence of these overzealous expectations.

The most important thing that Obama can do is restore some sense of hope in the country. The performance of the stock market, and the unwillingness of financial institutions to loan money even after they were given billions of dollars by the government, are both strong evidence of the sense of absence of hope and presence of despair. At the present time the country is devoid of any leadership, as President Bush has gone missing, and Secretary of the treasury Paulson appears to be the leader of the country. How important is hope? Ronald Reagan understood the need for people to feel good about themselves and their country, and that better times lie ahead. Businesses are composed of people, and therefore have the same need.

He must provide strong leadership, because even the best of economic recovery plans will not work unless they are fully implemented, and the people of this country believe that they will work. When the giant banks of this country are given tens of billions of dollars and still do not lend money, but contemplate large bonuses for their staffs, there is a need for a leader who will send a quick direct message telling them what they need to do.

Obama's willingness to form a diverse Cabinet with people who don't completely share his vision is evidence of a man with a strong ego. A strong ego should not be confused with a big one. A person with a strong ego is able to tolerate differences of opinion, and even learn from them. We have had few presidents with strong egos in recent decades. The interview with the heads of his campaign gave a prescient insight into his leadership style. He wants to surround himself with strong and capable people who can carry out their mission with a minimum of guidance.

Lastly, Obama consistently points out that the task ahead of us cannot be accomplished by one person. There is no one human being who can carry the country on his or her back.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bailing General Motors and Ford: A Necessary Evil

If this country weren't in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the argument to bail out General Motors and Ford would be less than persuasive. However, given the current situation, the loss of the jobs at America's automakers and the multiplying effect of losing other jobs related to these corporations' existence are too great to allow them to fail at this time. Without the current crisis, it would be fitting that these poorly managed companies partnered with unions who couldn't see the writing on the wall, would have faded into extinction.

Even now there are many who say why bother to save General Motors when its market capitalization as of Tuesday, November 11, 2008, is less than $2 billion. Most people who have been following the long-term demise of the American automotive industry have been well aware of the overindulgent benefits provided to retired auto workers. Many of the automotive industry retirees have never had to deal with Medicare because they had perpetual gold plated medical coverage. Now, like the rest of American retirees, they have to deal with the intricacies of Medicare. Couldn't they, along with management, have seen long ago that this benefit was too excessive to last at a time when the automotive industry in America was continuing on a downhill path?

It has been pointed out that most companies declaring bankruptcy under Chapter 11 don't go out of existence. Instead, they shed debt, reorganize, and emerge as healthier companies. That's what United Airlines and Delta Airlines have done and Circuit City is planning to do. However, this requires special financing which most lenders are not willing to do at the present time at a time when the credit market is still mostly frozen.

The government must do more than just give money to the automakers. The automakers must present a workable plan for how they will become profitable and how they will pay the money back to the people of America. The next administration must be extremely vigilant in its monitoring of the automakers, as well as other companies that have been given government money. While no one wants to government to take over the auto industry, or the banking industry, the people in charge of the companies that have been bailed out have shown themselves to be clueless at times. The most egregious example has been the plans for multimillion dollar bonuses on Wall Street and the expensive road trips at AIG. While Guantánamo must be emptied out of its current occupants, perhaps it should not be entirely
closed. Pictures of empty cells at Guantánamo could be sent to the CEOs of the companies
receiving government bailouts as a reminder of what is at stake.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Bush Presidency: End of a Long Dark Night

The end of the Bush presidency is in sight, and America and the rest of the world will be the better for it. The financial catastrophe that confronts the world and a duplicitous, unnecessary war in Iraq are only two of the sins of one of the worst administration’s in the history of this nation. There is another "horror" that this administration attempted to perpetrate on this country, and nearly succeeded. This consisted of the erosion of constitutional freedoms and rights through the so-called "Patriot Act," the torture haven in Guantánamo, and secret and illegal activities carried on by a president, a vice president and others who sought to subvert the rule of law. The administration lived in the darkness of the recesses of their own minds and sought to convince the people of this country that the world was a dark and dangerous place that required abandonment of principles and laws that we have long held sacred.

Before anyone accuses me of being ignorant of the terrorists and other forces around the world who seek our destruction, let me assure you that I am aware of what Al Qaeda and others would wish to do to us and to Israel. However, you can't fight darkness with darkness, or evil with evil. I am uncertain of how President Bush saw the world before he became president. Certainly, after 9/11, with the advice of the people around him, he became convinced that the world was dangerous place and this got translated into making Iraq a focal point for fighting terrorism. Al Qaeda was not present in Iraq before our invasion and Saddam Hussein had no ties with this organization that viewed him as an enemy.

Leadership involves helping this nation to adopt the appropriate mindset to the problems that beset us as well as to the opportunities that we have. The dark mindset of the Bush administration led this country ashtray, and isolated it from its natural allies in Europe and in other parts of the world. A "John Wayne" mentality may have seemed to work well in the movies the late 40s and early 50s, but it ill behooved this country in the 21st century. The integrated nature of the world we live in has been fully evidenced by the way the economic disaster has unfolded. The linkage of nations has never been more apparent. While it is appropriate for this nation to take the leadership in confronting tyranny and terror throughout the world, it is a terrible failure for us to be viewed by the world as a source of tyranny and terror.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Free-Market System Failure

Diehard capitalists and those who make their living on Wall Street, or connected with most financial activities, are lamenting the "takeover" of the free-market system. They need to get over it. If the financial free-market system could be likened to a ship, it is one that is hard aground on the rocks and taking water, still in danger of sinking. Governments in Europe, in addition to our own, are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into banks and other financial institutions in an effort to stabilize a system that was destabilized by unfettered and unregulated greed.

Before anyone accuses me of being a socialist, let me make it clear that I am all for free-market capitalism because that is the best way known to produce material goods and most services. A planned economy is usually a planned disaster. However, when the greed driven folks on Wall Street, in banks throughout this nation and abroad, and other assorted crooks and scoundrels didn't have proper supervision, they created a debacle of bad loans, packages of assets that soon became worthless, and trillions of dollars of derivatives that will take years to resolve. To complain about the free-market system being taken away, is like a child crying because the parents are finally taken away the matches that have been used to set several fires.

What started as a meltdown in financial institutions and banks soon became a meltdown on Main Street throughout the world. Commodity prices which had been going straight up have come straight down. Oil prices which had been gushing through the roof came tumbling down and countries that had been strutting around like peacocks (Russia, Venezuela, and Iran as well as many others) suddenly found themselves faced with potential budget shortfalls of enormous magnitude. Venezuelan may have to postpone the launching of its Pacific Fleet while it deals with 30% inflation and an economy that cannot be supported with oil selling for under $70 a barrel. The only benefit out of the economic chaos for America has been the reduction in the price of a gallon of gasoline from over four dollars to just over two dollars. However, if people resumed their SUV driving habits we will soon be in the four dollar a gallon gas crisis again.

The financial free-market system will never be the same, nor should it. The people who should have been supervising it were contemptuous of government regulation and assumed that the people who ran financial institutions could be trusted (ouch) to "watch out for their own good." Fiduciary responsibility was all but abandoned and now we all have to pay to fix a system that is almost broken beyond repair. It will take cooperation in this country, not recently a practiced art, as well as cooperation with other countries to avoid another Great Depression. We can only hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins: Liberals and Socialism Next?

As of 10:30 P.M. Tuesday, November 4, 2008, it is all but certain that Barack Obama will become the next president of the United States. We were informed by the McCain campaign that Obama is the most liberal senator, and that combined with a Democratic House and Senate, we face all sorts of dire consequences. In fact, the new president will be so busy dealing with the crises created by the outgoing Republican president that he will have little time, and very little money, to implement any sort of liberal agenda.

If the people of this country were paying close attention to what Senator, and soon to be President-elect, Obama did to defeat Hillary Clinton, and then John McCain, they would have seen that he does what he has to in order to accomplish his goal. This is the very definition of a politician. As soon as Obama became the apparent nominee for the Democratic Party, he moved to the center much to the dismay of the screaming, out of touch ultra liberals who immediately predicted his demise. As we have seen, such was not the case. According to articles I have read, Senator Obama has studied President Reagan's presidency in great detail. Regardless of what one thinks of President Reagan, he was immensely popular and had the backing of much of the country.

Obama will not move to the left, but rather government pragmatically. Some of his ideas are no doubt construed as "socialism" by those on the right, but the last two elections have shown that those on the right to have been very wrong. New Democratic senators and Congresspersons have been added from traditionally "red" states and are much more moderate than their first cousins on either coast. If Obama is to bring about change, it can only be done from somewhere in the middle with the cooperation of his many Republicans as possible. Newt Gingrich is warming up his campaign for 2012 in the expectation that an extremely liberal President Obama will run the country further off the tracks. It is likely that President Obama will spend the next four years trying to get the country back on track and actually worked to see that the needs of the majority of the citizens of this country are met, as opposed to the very affluent. This will leave little room for Newt Gingrich, or any other right wing Republican, to run his little train into the White House.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Presidential Poll Differences

With less than three days until the voting starts Tuesday morning, the presidential polls show a national lead for Obama ranging from 3 to 10 points. Different polls make different assumptions and they are not necessarily comparable. For example, one poll assumes that evangelicals will constitute 42% of the voters on Tuesday, which is more than twice the percentage they constituted in the 2004 election. The average of the polls show Obama to have a lead of about 4% to 6%. However, it is important to remember that the election is based on the Electoral College not on a nationwide popularity contest.

There are differences among the polls on a state-by-state basis, but Obama has a lead in almost all of the battleground states. It would take a significant shift for McCain to win the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to become president. While this is not impossible, it seems unlikely at this point. McCain seems to be making some gains in some states according to different polls: however there is no way to be certain what will happen on Election Day based on any of these polls. Of note, is the fact that recent research has shown that the vast majority of people who say that they are "undecided" have in fact made up their mind even though they don't know it. Sounds screwy? Well, there are ways to elicit opinions and preferences that are the basis for formation of a final judgment.

As Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, "It's not over till it's over" which should make for a very interesting Tuesday evening. It is likely that Obama helped McCain when he talked about redistributing the wealth. While this occurs all the time, it's not something a liberal Democrat should say. However, Republicans have redistributed the wealth of the last eight years, but in this instance the money has gone to the affluent and to the major corporations. Opinion? Go to or some other unbiased sources. On Tuesday, the endless campaign will finally be over and Americans can go on to arguing about other things.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan Shocks America

Today, in testimony before Congress, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan said that he was "shocked" at the breakdown in U.S. credit markets and said he was "partially" wrong to resist regulation of some securities. Economists and others who had been predicting the current credit debacle were even more shocked that Greenspan said he was shocked. They were wondering what he thought would happen when he kept interest rates at 1% for so long.

Greenspan provided even more shocking testimony when he said, "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity -- myself especially -- are in a state of shocked disbelief." It's hard to imagine that someone with his knowledge of history of the way economic markets work could even be mildly surprised that lending institutions failed to protect shareholders equity. Perhaps he had forgotten about the savings-and-loan debacle of the late 1980s and early 1990s. This resulted in the failure of 2412 savings and loan associations. The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around $560.1 billion, about $324.6 billion of which was directly paid for by the U.S. government—that is, the U.S. taxpayer.

The type of delusional thinking that Greenspan was engaging in was recently termed "market fundamentalism" by George Soros the famed investor and someone who could've provided better guidance for the supervision of the financial institutions than those who were actually in charge. Mr. Soros recently provided a stinging denouncement of the notion that financial and credit markets could be self-monitoring. When children play with money some grown-ups need to monitor them.

If only Greenspan had seen the movie "Wall Street" and heard the character of Gordon Gecko utter the famous words, "Greed is good." What did Greenspan think was going to happen in an environment where executives of financial institutions were rewarded tens of millions of dollars for their successes and had no penalties for their failures? This country needs people in charge of the Federal Reserve and Secretary of the Treasury who have a knowledge of the way people really are in addition to their credentials in finance and economics.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Presidential Polls Are Not Quite Useless

With two weeks to go in the election many people are carefully watching the presidential polls, particularly the state-by-state ones that will determine victory in the Electoral College. Political polls are based on models of people who will most likely vote, or people who voted in the last election, or some combination of both of them. This model has flaws that are becoming greater as time goes by. Foremost among them is that telephone polls don't include people who don't have telephones. Not many you say. Wrong! Many young adults, even professional ones don't own a landline. A significant number of "poor" people don't have landline to either. So these subpopulations cannot be included in telephone surveys.

Telephone polls also encounter the language problem. There are many American citizens who speak primarily or only Spanish, or another language. These people are excluded from telephone polls and become an important population subset that is not represented in the findings. The fact that these people tend to vote Democratic skew the results towards Republicans.

This year there is a special subpopulation that isn't accounted for in the sampling procedure used by telephone surveys. The Democratic Party has enrolled millions of new voters across the nation, and particularly in key so-called battleground states. If the Democratic Party enrolled these people, it is logical to assume that a significant majority of them will vote Democratic.

Telephone surveys never include people who refuse to talk to the pollsters. So by definition, telephone poles leave out a population subset that is hard to replicate.

If you are a McCain supporter hoping that he will close the gap, don't rely on poll information to support your belief that the race is getting closer. If you are an Obama supporter, you can't be sure whether all your supporters are included.

People have all too often said that bad data is better than no data at all. That is one of the most shortsighted, ignorant statements possible.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Britney Spears Wrongfully Persecuted by Los Angeles

Forget about the world economic crisis. Put the presidential election on hold. The fate of the Western world hangs in the balance as a Los Angeles jury failed to reach a verdict after the first day of deliberation in the sensational trial of Britney Spears. The case involves charges against Ms. Spears that she was driving without a valid driver's license at the time she was in an auto accident in August of 2007. In fact, Ms. Spears had a valid Louisiana driver's license, but the merciless criminal justice system of the city of Los Angeles wants its pound of flesh, insisting that Ms. Spears should have had a valid California driver's license.

Given Ms. Spears state of mind at the time of the accident it's a miracle she had any kind of driver's license. Fortunately for her, at the time of the accident, her faithful following of paparazzi was right there to help extricate her from any danger. We all remember the Los Angeles city criminal justice system from its botched prosecution of the O.J. Simpson trial to its brutalization of Rodney King. In an apparent effort to rescue its tarnished reputation, the Los Angeles criminal justice system has focused its laser like vision on poor Ms. Spears. This comes at a time when Britney seems to have gotten her act together, at least for a few months. For the first time since 1999 she has a hit single that has gone to the top of the Billboard chart. What could be more important!

No doubt millions of Americans will spend this weekend in prayer that justice is rightfully done for Ms. Spears. The fine young lady who has put a sordid past behind her, and become a role model for all young American women is no doubt biting her nails awaiting the jury's final verdict. Rumors that Paris Hilton has gone to support Britney in her hour of peril are unsubstantiated at this time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama Wins Third Presidential Debate Handily

In baseball you get three strikes and you're out. There were three debates, and each time Senator McCain tried to get the best of Senator Obama. He didn't succeed in any instance and after three tries he too is out. McCain attacked early and often, but spent too much time attacking and too little time making his own case. McCain needed to make a case for why he would be the better candidate and what he could do that Obama couldn't. He failed to do this, and continued on what are his essential talking points which most of America could have recited with them.

The three debates gave Senator Obama a chance to display his stature and ability to assume command of this country, which has been leaderless for some time. Obama was cool, calm, and collect and responded to almost all of McCain's attacks and charges effortlessly. McCain did score a few points, but consolation points when you are behind in the polls don't matter very much. McCain initially seemed energized, but as the debate war on he appeared old and tired. 72 year old man has the wisdom and ability to run a country, but McCain is not one of them.

The attacks by Senator McCain were mostly tangential and the 700 plus point drop in the stock market only served to emphasize that there was one main issue, the economy. Trying to paint Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal is hard when the so-called conservative president for the last eight years has spent the economy into the ground while cutting taxes.

Senator McCain was clearly an angry man tonight. For much of the evening a frozen plastic smile covered his face. He sought to attack Obama whenever possible and make faces when Obama successfully countered his point. Do we need an angry man for our leader? Or do we need a leader with a more positive vision and a better sense of what America needs?

Presidential Polls: Virginia for Obama?

The latest CNN poll shows Obama with a 10 point lead over McCain in Virginia. What? Virginia goes Democratic? This hasn't happened since 1964 when Lyndon Johnson overwhelmed Barry Goldwater. Have too many Washington bureaucrats moved into Virginia and turned it against its rightful owners? That's certainly a possibility. It's also possible that independent Virginia voters have looked at the past eight years, looked at Senator McCain, and wondered if he was a solution to their problems.

Maybe Governor Palin was only speaking to large crowds of the faithful Joe six packers when she was in Virginia telling voters how dangerous it would be to vote for Obama. The most dangerous thing for the people of Virginia, and the rest of this country, is the state of the economy. You have to be a real Governor Palin zealot to not be frightened at the prospect of her being one heartbeat away from making decisions about an economy so badly damaged. Can anyone imagine her sitting down with Prime Minister Brown of England or any other European leader and being able to converse on equal terms about economic decisions? If you can, then your imagination has taken hold of you.

It seems that numbers of rural voters all across the so-called "key battleground states" have decided that they would rather take a chance with the supposedly unknown Senator Obama then with the tried-and-true Senator McCain. After what seems to be a decade of campaigning, what is it all about Obama that people really need to know that they haven't already seen. The people of Virginia and the rest of America have very little interest in the loose association that Senator Obama had with the former terrorist Bill Ayres. The McCain-Palin attack plan was a failure. Time is running out. Can Senator McCain still win? Yes, but the odds get longer each day. And clearly, the people of Virginia seem likely to give their electoral votes to the man Senator McCain tells them they can't trust.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bush Legacy: America near Ruin

As the Bush (also known as the Joe six-pack) presidency in nears its end, its legacy has become very clear. The country is in a financial disaster that could possibly surpass that of the Great Depression. We are in the fifth year of the war in Iraq where things have gotten better, but no end is in sight. This was a war the Bush presidency took us to with lies, false information, and an ongoing agenda of fear mongering. At the same time, Afghanistan which was nearly won, is now nearly lost.

The free-market system of banking and finance is in total shambles and countries around the world must work together to prevent a global meltdown. The initial cause started here with an absence of any regulation of the financial marketplace that led to systemic abuses ranging from fraudulent home loans to the major financial institutions on Wall Street lying to themselves, lying to their shareholders, lying to the government, and lying to the American public about their true financial state. In the end, the financial institution survivors had to be rescued by the taxpayers of this country. All this happened while the president was keeping us safe from unnamed horrors abroad.

Even the so-called "safe" giant insurance companies found themselves facing financial difficulties that few would have imagined. It all comes back to the commander-in-chief. What the president did, he did poorly. He mismanaged the war and ran up the biggest budget deficit in history. And this was supposed to be a conservative president? What he failed to do was legion, most importantly provide leadership and see to it that the country was better off at the end of his administration that it was at the beginning of his administration. In the end, when his leadership was needed, he had none to display and his credibility was gone. The reputation of this nation is a fraction of what it was when he took over.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama Finds His Voice as Professor and Pastor

The heat in a presidential campaign can bring out the best in a person or the worst in a person.

Senator Obama seems to have found his voice, especially in regard to the economy, as the campaign heads into the final weeks. It was remarkable that he was able to hold the attention of a crowd of 21,000 people in the rain in Indianapolis, Indiana. The people of this country need to understand what's at stake but they also need someone who can provide a strong positive vision so that we can believe we will survive this crisis.

Senator Obama Wins Second Presidential Debate

Senator Obama gave a sterling performance in the second presidential debate while Senator McCain seemed tired and old beyond his years. Senator Obama spoke crisply and emphasized his key points while making good eye contact with the audience. Senator McCain continued his ineffective attack on Obama and repeated most of his points from the previous debate. It is questionable as to whether Senator McCain actually reads the newspapers. He was still harping on the importance of the surge and victory in Iraq when today's papers carried statements from the outgoing British commander in Afghanistan that the war was unwinnable. Message to Senator McCain: we're losing in Afghanistan.

Senator McCain emphasized his experience but talking about events that occurred during the Reagan administration, and even referring to Teddy Roosevelt, made him look out of touch with the current economic crisis. Senator Obama made a point of emphasizing the need for a lead it to be able to "look around the corner" and think about what's going to happen next as opposed to always being in a reactive state. While Senator McCain appeared to be more cordial at first, he clearly has disdain for the younger man who is now increasingly being seen as a good more commanding leader despite his lesser experience. McCain fails to see that experience by itself is not a recommendation for leadership.

While Senator McCain saw the provision of health care as responsibility, Senator Obama saw it as a right of all Americans. Senator McCain's emphasis on turning to the private sector for health care seems ill chosen when the financial private sector has collapsed and the health-care private sector is best known for its attempts to deny or limit to policyholders. A woman in the audience had a good question when she wondered if we should make health care more like a public utility. Unfortunately neither senator chose to address this issue.

When Senator McCain referred to Senator Obama as, "That one," he lapsed to a level of disrespect heretofore not seen in presidential debates. Senator McCain's one attempt at a "new initiative" whereby the government would buy up mortgages, turns out to be in the plan that was passed by Congress last week. If Senator McCain can't be bothered to read, then he ought to have better staff members who read what he should and remind him of what he should know. This was an evening Senator McCain needed to win in a fashion that would turn around the campaign. Unfortunately for Senator McCain, the evening turned out the exact opposite of what he needed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain to Cut Medicare

According to the Wall Street Journal, “John McCain would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, a top aide said, in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs. The Republican presidential nominee has said little about the proposed cuts, but they are needed to keep his health-care plan “budget neutral,” as he has promised. The McCain campaign hasn’t given a specific figure for the cuts, but didn’t dispute the analysts’ estimate.”

In a time when seniors are struggling to make ends meet, and retirement plans are unraveling, Senator McCain once again demonstrates how out of touch he is with the American people. With his excellent medical plan as a member of Congress Senator McCain doesn't have to worry about the details of Medicare, or reduced Medicare benefits. Is McCain actually trying to alienate America's senior citizens? Hard to know. Stay tuned for further announcements.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Palin Damned Mixed Up Over Coffee Cup

At a rally on Saturday in California Governor Palin, whose reading habits are known to be very light, misquoted something she claimed to have read on a Starbucks coffee cup. (Source: LA Times)

“It’s like kind of providential yesterday what happened to me,” Palin said. “I am reading on my Starbucks mocha cup the quote of the day. You’ll never believe what the quote was! It was Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state and U.N. ambassador, and Madeleine has as her quote of the day for Starbucks — now she said it, I didn’t say it — ‘There is a place in hell reserved for women who don’t support other women.’ OK now, thank you so much for receiving that well, I didn’t know how that was gonna go over. And now California, let’s see what a comment like I just made, let’s see what it will be turned into . . . newspaper.”

Unfortunately for Governor Palin, she put her foot in her mouth way past her epiglottis. Albright didn't say that. The accurate quote is, "There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't help other women." This is what happens when Governor Palin is turned loose and speaks what's on her alleged mind. It now seems that the McCain campaign was quite correct in keeping Governor Palin under tight control. The governor is far worse than a loose canon; she's a loose thermonuclear verbal bomb.

Based on the stories coming out of Alaska, I suspect that behind Governor Palin's charming political smile lies a very dark heart. With thirty days to go in the campaign, there are plenty of opportunities for Governor Palin to show us who and what she really is. And many more opportunities for Tina Fay to immortalize her on Saturday Night Live.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

McCain: Life Isn't Fair

John McCain's astonishing discovery that life isn't fair, which he shared on Fox and Friends, can be viewed as one of the revelatory discoveries of this presidential campaign (see below). Gee John, if life isn't fair for someone who has more houses than he can remember and more cars than he can count, can you imagine how it is for the rest of us who live on a mere pittance compared to what you. McCain was referring to the fact that Obama has greatly benefited in the polls from the economic crisis. That isn't fair to you? Seems to me this economic crisis occurred under a Republican administration which had all but abandoned the concept of regulating the financial markets.

If life doesn't seem fair to you, then can you imagine how it might seem to a single mother raising two children earning less than $20,000 a year. Might you imagine how it seems to a couple with two children earning $50,000 a year between them but spending $2000 a month for health insurance. Better yet, how unfair would life be for a working person with a chronic medical condition who doesn't have any health insurance and cannot obtain necessary and appropriate medical care.

John McCain: Losing in Every Possible Way

Recent CNN polls indicate that Senator Obama has taken the lead in key battleground states such as Florida, Minnesota, Virginia, Nevada, and Missouri. This represents a significant shift in the last two weeks. At the same time, a video of a meeting between John McCain and the staff of the Des Moines register shows an irate John McCain losing his temper, and at times sounding a bit unstrung (see below). When an unseen member of the newspaper stated that Republican conservatives had criticized Governor Palin’s fitness as a candidate, McCain challenged the staff to name someone without giving them the opportunity to do so.

Almost all the polls show that the majority of the independent voters believe that Senator Obama had won the first debate. While Obama talked directly to McCain, and agreed with him on occasion, McCain did not make eye contact with Obama and had a frozen smile on his face whenever Obama said he was wrong about some issue. McCain's tactic of constantly saying that, "Obama doesn't understand" did not have the desired effect. McCain displayed a consistently truculent attitude in relations with Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Starting wars is not the best way of protecting the American people as we have found out with our current president.

McCain's lack of understanding of economic issues and the current crisis facing us has been evident for some time, highlighted by his statement that the, "the economy was fundamentally strong." Recent polls reveal that the voters with the most at stake in the financial crisis, persons with incomes of $75,000 or more and in the age category of 50 through 64 had made a significant in shift in their support of Obama from McCain. McCain is losing and he knows it. As much as Hillary Clinton wanted to become president, McCain needs to become president even more. By becoming president McCain can finally attain a higher rank than his father the Admiral who McCain feared and hated at the same time. This is an opinion, not a fact, but by training I am more than an amateur psychologist.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

McCain and the 3 A.M. Call

"The modern economy, it turns out, is a dangerous place — and it’s not the kind of danger you can deal with by talking tough and denouncing evildoers. Does Mr. McCain have the judgment and temperament to deal with that part of the job he seeks? "

The thrust of Paul Krugman's column is that John McCain is a very dangerous man when it comes to making important decisions for this country. He is erratic, and impulsive, and not well-informed.

Nancy Pelosi Must Be Muzzled

At one of the most critical points in this country's last 100 years, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, needed to exercise all the qualities of a superior leader. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to do this, and she ran off at the mouth chastising already irate Republican Congressman about the failures of the Bush Presidency and the impact on the lack of regulation and oversight on the financial system of this country. It is absurd for Republican leaders to claim that she caused reluctant Republican conservatives to not vote for the financial proposal, when they clearly had little inclination to do so in the first place. However, her case of foot in mouth disease couldn't have come at a worse time.

Every time Nancy Pelosi smiles in public, particularly when she is dealing with Republicans, I always get the sense that she is under great stress and strain. She has risen to one of the most important political positions in the country because she is extremely bright and talented. Unfortunately, her repertoire of leadership skills is still wanting in critical areas. Hopefully, the congressional Republicans and Democrats can get together and work out a compromise that will allow sufficient votes for the financial rescue package to pass. The next time the House of Representatives is voting on such a measure it might be a good idea for Democratic colleagues to tape her mouth shut

Friday, September 26, 2008

Governor Palin Speaks Out

Governor Palin spoke to reporters from her traveling press corps for the first time. We now know why the McCain campaign handlers were so concerned about limiting press access to her. In some of her responses, Governor Palin was inarticulate and demonstrated an inability to express herself in grammatically correct/coherent sentences. Some of her responses were very inappropriate for someone with a college degree in journalism, and much worse for someone who is the governor of any state.

Below is a verbatim response from Governor Palin when she was talking about what happened at the World Trade Center.

"I wish every American would come through here. I wish every world leader would come through here, and understand what it is that took place here and more importantly how America came together and united to commit to never allowing this to happen again. And just to hear and from and see these good New Yorkers who are rebuilding not just this are but helping to rebuild America has been very, very inspiring and encouraging."

Excuse me. "And just to hear and from and see these good New Yorkers….”

It is important for Governor Palin to speak clearly and coherently because as potential vice president of the United States, and possibly even the president of the United States, the entire world has to understand what she means by what she says. This was not evident in her brief interviews with the press, nor in her interview with Katie Couric, which is seen below. There is simply no way Governor Palin is even close to being a reasonable candidate for vice president of the United States. Choosing Governor Palin to be his vice presidential running mate wasn't a gamble on Senator McCain's part, it was an egregious example of poor judgment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wall Street and Washington Organized Crime in America

Organized crime in America, which was long associated with Tony Soprano wannabes, shifted to the major brokerage houses and current banking institutions on Wall Street, as well as major and smaller banks across America and the mortgage brokers that worked with them. The extent to which actual criminal activities occurred is being investigated by the FBI, but ethical and moral crimes were committed on a daily basis by people driven by greed and unbelievable ignorance of the cumulative effects of their money manipulation policies and tactics.

The shift of organized crime was aided and abetted by lax oversight laws in Washington and the failure to exercise the stripped-down oversight powers that remained. The Republican Party, rulers of Congress since the mid-90s, had nothing but contempt for regulatory rules and statutes which were viewed as hindrances to unfettered operations of markets. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ran amok paying little or no attention to what their true functions and responsibilities were. The Republicans were joined by the Democrats who were all too willing to accept donations from lobbyists from financial organizations and other inducements that made it possible for the financial debacle to occur. In this quasi criminal environment, members of Congress never retired, they just went to work as lobbyists for the organizations they were supposed to oversee. Members of Congress were accessories in a new model of organized crime.

All of the above occurred in an environment in which the Bush administration subverted the Constitution, tortured people contrary to existing American laws, lied to the American people and the rest of the world, and perpetrated an endless series of misinformation and manipulation. This constituted organized crime on the part of the presidency of the United States. I don't cite specifics because that would take many pages, but surely the lie about the existence of weapons of mass of destruction in Iraq constituted a high crime and misdemeanor on the part of the president. When Joe Wilson attempted to speak up about the misinformation supplied to the American people, the Bush administration struck back by "outing" his CIA employed wife. This was followed by a series of lies and cover-ups which protected the people who actually ordered the felony.

Many people in the financial markets and throughout America are decrying the end of capitalism. If capitalism has died it was a result of its own misdeeds and failure to police itself.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Great Depression of 2008

It's a scary headline, but one that could have easily happened if the "Great Bailout of 2008" wasn't proposed last week. Last Wednesday morning commercial paper that companies need for everyday business was frozen and a run on money market funds had begun. Lehman Brothers was no more, AIG was about to disappear, Merrill Lynch had been bought by Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs were on the ropes with their futures in doubt. And this was only a part of the nightmare scenario.

The impending financial catastrophe also involved growing concern over money market funds. One major money market fund had "broke a buck" which means its value was less than a dollar. The run on money market funds had begun and it is likely that a significant number of money market funds could not have met the demands for withdrawals. Money market funds normally invest their assets in government securities, certificates of deposits, commercial paper of companies, and other highly liquid and low-risk securities. The problem for the money market funds was that some of the commercial paper they owned and other securities were no longer liquid or low risk. So the money market funds began to accumulate cash and the entire credit market was seizing up.

The housing market was continuing to collapse and the stock market was beginning to collapse. A major sell off in the stock market, by itself, would not have been sufficient for Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke to call a meet with the leaders of Congress and propose a 700 billion-dollar bailout. It took a combination of all of the aforementioned events and circumstances, in addition to other factors that have not been detailed. When the meeting was over the members of both parties had extremely somber looks on their faces. For the first time, they had been told the true nature of the catastrophe that was occurring. The piecemeal approach taken by the government was failing and unless a more comprehensive approach was instituted a financial catastrophe akin to the Great Depression was almost inevitable.

I don't have the expertise to critique the proposed plan. In fact, one of the problems with the proposed plan is that it contains so many unknowns. However, to have continued the piecemeal approach, or to have done nothing, would have led to disaster. Is a depression no longer possibile? Hopefully, yes. But in these times no one can say anything with a great deal of certainty.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

McCain Accuses Obama of Ruining Paradise

Senator McCain said that he had irrefutable proof that Senator Obama was the snake in the Garden of Eden that persuaded Eve, and then Adam, to eat the forbidden Apple, causing them to be cast from Paradise. He went on to say that this was a typical Democratic ploy to force to people who had everything they needed to move into government supplied housing. When Senator Obama replied, "I wasn't born yet" Governor Palin said, "That's one more evasive answer by Senator Obama."

Senator McCain went on to say that Senator Obama was complicit in the destruction of the fleet at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. McCain said that Obama, a Hawaiian resident, failed to perform his civic duty and inform the authorities that the Japanese aircraft were flying across the island. Once again Senator Obama replied, "I wasn't born yet." Governor Palin said, "You can never get a straight answer from Senator Obama."

Senator McCain also accused Senator Obama for the poorly planned war in Iraq. He said that Obama had failed to listen to his generals and had implemented unilateral strategies which forced the war to last more than five years. An outraged Senator Obama said, "I was against the invasion of Iraq never had any responsibilities for military decisions or planning." Governor Palin said, "once again Obama was refusing to accept responsibility for a Democratic caused debacle." When Governor Palin was asked what "debacle" meant, she giggled.

Lastly, Senator McCain said that Senator Obama was entirely responsible for the economic collapse confronting the nation. He pointed out that as one of the nation's wealthiest men with a controlling interest in all of the major brokerage houses Senator Obama failed to act with due diligence when his brokerage houses were creating junk securities. Senator Obama replied, "I have no stock or relationship with any of the brokerage houses on Wall Street." Governor Palin replied, "It’s pretty awful when a man can't own up to what he does."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wall Street and Big Banks: a Nation of Greed

The lack of oversight and failure to follow regulatory rules clearly contributed to the financial crisis in which we enmeshed. However, without boundless greed on the part of the major Wall Street institutions and large banks throughout America the possible financial catastrophe we are facing would have never occurred. People all over America played their part by wanting houses they couldn't afford, and mortgage brokers with the morals of loan sharks were only too happy to accommodate them.

On Wall Street a game of musical chairs has begun and only Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are left after Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch found themselves sitting on the metaphorical floor. What is particularly appalling about the way this fiscal crisis played out was the continuous lying by the CEOs and CFOs of the major institutions on Wall Street. At first it was a small problem, then it was a little bigger, and finally it kept getting worse and worse until an economic tsunami washed over the nation and most probably the rest of the world.

We find out that financial institutions, such as Lehman Brothers, were leveraged up to thirty to one in some of their investments. This means they had $1 of assets for every $30 of liabilities for vast portions of their investment portfolio. And their investment portfolio was contained bundled mortgages from people who were encouraged to lie about their ability to pay them. When is enough, enough ever on Wall Street? The question is its own answer. There are undoubtedly good and honest people who worked for Lehman Brothers and other now deceased institutions, and continue to work for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. However, the moral climate of corporate greed was so pervasive that the people in charge not only lied to us, they lied to themselves.

So, the government has to step in time and time again using taxpayer money in what many are calling the socialization of the financial system. I don't know enough about the intricate finances to be aware of solutions other than those the government has undertaken. But the incestuous nature of the situation couldn't be more apparent when current secretary of the treasury Henry Paulson, formally CEO of Goldman Sachs, is orchestrating the bailout of the financial system with the institutions that caused the need for the bailout. From where I nervously sit, it appears that Henry Paulson is doing all he can to save the system. But if the system wasn't so morally corrupt and incestuously tied together it would not have needed saving.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Liberals: They Don't Get It and Never Will

The Democratic Party liberals and the liberal media columnists really don't understand what's happening in this election. It's the same thing that happened in the two recent Bush elections and they didn't get it then either. Liberals don't understand conservative values and viewpoints and don't relate well with blue-collar people despite the fact that they clearly represents the economic and health-care interests of blue-collar people much better than the Republicans. The Liberals keep thinking elections should be about ideas, principles, and programs for the voters. The Republicans understand that presidential elections are about whether or not the people can relate to the candidates.

It doesn't matter whether Governor Palin understands the so-called "Bush Policy" or that she continually misrepresents her position on the Bridge to No Where. It doesn't matter what McCain says or how he says it because now he is in the groove and will bash Obama to oblivion until Election Day. It doesn't matter that the McCain campaign lies when it says Obama will raise everybody's taxes. What matters is that enough voters have decided that they can relate to McCain, or feel more comfortable with him, or what ever, than they do with Obama. That determines how people vote.

I was reading columns in the New York Times and was struck by the liberal columnists' predictable reactions to Governor Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson. Gail Collins pointed out that Governor Palin misrepresented what she previously said about the effects of what our societies do on global warming. Paul Krugman pointed out that Governor Palin misrepresented what she originally said about the Bridge to Nowhere. He also pointed out the blatant lies coming out of the McCain campaign. In its editorial on September 12th, the New York Times stated about Governor Palin, “Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd." None of this matters. Millions of people have decided that Governor Palin is okay and they can relate to her.

End of story. End of election. Will the Liberals learn anything from this election? Not a chance.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Presidential Polls Are Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

November 1, 2008 Update
Note: to blog surfers and others who recently found this post. This post was written on September 10, 2008, when the polls showed Senator McCain taking over the lead from Senator Obama. The purpose of the post was to point out that the sampling procedures had been changed to favor a more Republican oriented response. This is a tremendous no-no in any poll or sampling procedure. If you are a Republican hoping to read that the current polls which show Obama with anywhere from a three to eight point lead are wrong, I have to disappoint you. While there is a significant difference among the polls, it is likely Obama still has a four to five point lead. There are significant flaws in some of the polls, such as one that assumes that 42% of the voters will be evangelicals, which is more than twice the percentage of evangelicals that voted in the 2004 presidential election. Besides, the election is decided on a state-by-state basis were Obama has more than enough states to give him the necessary 270 electoral votes. I'm not saying that McCain can't win, but rather that it is extremely unlikely that he will do so.


According to the most recent polls (Gallup, CBS, USA Today etc.) Senator McCain has pulled out in front of Senator Obama. But as everything else in this campaign nothing is what it appears to be. Alan Abramowitz, cited in the Huffington post, said, "One reason for the dramatic difference between the two recent CBS polls is that the two samples differed fairly dramatically in terms of partisan composition. The first sample was 35.2% Democratic, 26.2 percent Republicans, and 38.6 percent independent. The second sample was 34.9% Democratic, 31.1% Republican, and 34.0% independent. That's a change from a 9 point Democratic advantage to a 3.8 point Democratic advantage. That alone would probably explain about half of the difference in candidate preferences between the two [CBS] polls."

Simply put, you cannot change the sampling populations from one poll to the next and have any consistency (reliability). Mr.Abramowitz doesn't think the overall spike in Republican sampling among all three polling firms is an accurate reflection of the electorate. He goes on to say, "Given how important polls can be in the coverage of the race, even a slight assist to McCain during a period in which he is exciting the Republican base could help him solidify a new narrative in the race, regardless of the partisan facts on the ground."

The people of this country need accurate information in order to make an informed decision about whom to vote for in the presidential election. If the polls are inaccurate, and the McCain campaign is certainly not accurate, and Obama is spending most of his time responding to "misinformation" from the McCain campaign, then the American electorate falls back to choosing someone they are most comfortable with. That's the McCain strategy. It was the Bush strategy and it got us eight years under what will go down in history as one of the worst presidential administrations. Do we want that again?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Governor Palin Is the Bridge to Nowhere

Governor Palin proudly states that she was against the "Bridge to Nowhere." In a recent ad by the Obama campaign Governor Palin is shown holding up a "Bridge to Nowhere" shirt with a big grin indicating her support for the project. What are we supposed to believe? What Governor Palin tells us to believe or what we see with our own eyes? I submit that Governor Palin not only supported the "Bridge to Nowhere" but she is personally a bridge to nowhere.

Ever since her carefully orchestrated appearances before, during, and after the Republican convention more questions than answers have arisen about who and what she is, and what she stands for. No one, not even the McCain campaign, believes their mantra that Governor Palin is more experienced than Senator Obama, and she is ready to take over the presidency. Any woman who describes herself as a pit bull with lipstick is more prepared to referee a so-called professional wrestling match then she is to become the vice president of the United States. The McCain campaign is well aware of it and has limited all access to her so that she doesn't put her foot in her political mouth.

In a sense Governor Palin is a pawn in the Republican effort to make the election about liking and identifying with people as opposed to determining who would make the best president and solve the vast array of problems facing this country. She is a very willing pawn who "dragged her infant child" onto national TV during the Republican convention. Was I not supposed to make reference to her family? Well, if she's going to bring her baby and put it on display then she's made her family a national issue.

It's inconceivable to think of what would happen to this country if Senator McCain became president and then were disabled or very sick. Can anyone imagine this self-styled hockey mom sitting down with Vladimir Putin discussing the fate of the world. How could she address the significant financial problems this country is facing when she doesn't even understand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I could go on and on, but that would be tedious. My only hope is that she doesn't go on and on because that would be perilous for this country.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hiding Governor Palin in Plain Sight

The McCain campaign announced a list of places that Governor Palin will be campaigning at for the next three weeks. At the same time they announced the new rules for for interviews with Governor Palin. As of September 7, 2008, Governor Palin will not be giving any interviews with the press unless Senator Senator McCain is also present, in which case he will be answering the questions. In the event Senator McCain is otherwise occcupied, Karl Role will substitute for Senator McCain and Karl Rove will answer all the questions.

The McCain campaign also announced that it won't allow any difficult, ticky, or subversive questions to be asked of Governor Palin. The Senator or Karl will be the final arbiters of what constitutes difficult, tricky, or subversive questions. Furthermore, representatives from CNN, MSNBC. or angry liberal establishment reporters will not be allowed to come with 1000 feet of Governor Palin. The McCain campaign reserves the right to add other subvversive persons or agencies to this list.

Lastly, the McCain campaign made it clear that Governor Palin will contine to unleash hostile, sarcastic, and nasty remarks about Senators Obama and Biden. Anyone evidencing even the slightest hostility to Governor Palin will be shot on site as a sexist pig, even Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

McCain Campaign Got Talent

If some people were worried that the Republican convention wouldn't be able to match the excitement generated at the Democratic convention and Barack Obama's sensational speech, recent days have shown that they had nothing to worry about. First Senator McCain rolled out the least qualified vice presidential candidate unimaginable to the astonishment of most of America. Having gotten everyone's attention, the McCain campaign then proceeded to unequivocally state that Governor Palin was more qualified than Senator Obama. This led to incredulity, anger, outrage, and a whole post of other emotions that would have earned the McCain campaign high marks on the hit television show "America's got talent."

A good portion of the basis for the McCain campaigns assertion that Governor Palin was more qualified than Senator Obama was her experience as mayor of a small town of 5000. James Carville showed a picture of the City Hall and proclaimed that it looked like a bait shop southern Louisiana. More high marks for the McCain campaign in terms of comedy.

America then learns that Governor Palin is a supporter of the Alaska Independence Party, as evidenced by a video of her wishing them good luck on their upcoming convention. Then we find out that Governor Palin's husband was a membership in the secessionist party at a time when the theme of the Republican convention is "Country First." This comedic piece of information would've caused the hard to please Piers Morgan to break out in laughter.

Today Senator McCain said, "Enough of this nonsense." Since Senator McCain introduced this nonsense by selecting Governor Palin as his vice presidential running mate he is responsible for the nonsense continuing till election Day. Not to be outdone by his vice presidential running mate, Senator McCain contributed his own nonsense by refusing to talk to members of the media that asked tough questions, calling them "unfair." It is certain that if the McCain campaign were eligible for, "America's Got Talent" it would certainly make the final ten.