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.