Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I imagine there are a lot of very apprehensive people out there given the stock market downturn yesterday.  They say the market is set to make a bit of a turn around though the question is for how long.  It would depend on how long the bargain hunters are active today.  The news report this morning said that one of the very few gainers yesterday was Campbells Soup.  After all, everyone has to eat.  

I love the sub-heading for this article on MSNBC this morning: "..., banking crisis is everywhere as Wall Street crisis spans the globe."  Where have these people been?  I have seen reports in foreign news outlets for the last year that mirrored the ones our domestic outlets have carried.  The real estate drop, the credit crisis, the job markets.  All of this has been world wide from the beginning.  Wall Street didn't start it; nor will bailing out our credit markets solve the problem.  And I am sorry that many in the financial world are upset by the term but a bail out is a bail out is a bail out.

Congress.org has an interesting breakdown of the vote on the 'rescue' plan.  Just looking at the map, most of the states' representatives were against the plan.  If other state contingents followed my state's, it wasn't a Republican vs. Democrat problem.  Our five Democrats voted 3 to 2 against while the Republicans voted 3 to 1 against.  Only 15 states' Congressional contingents had majorities for the measure.  The message I get from the results:  you need to start over and get a plan that addresses more of the major concerns.  Or several plans. We don't have simply a credit crisis and focusing on the credit angle is a big mistake.

For another blog that comes to similar conclusions but from a position of greater expertise go here.  John Mauldin's 'Out of the Box' is always interesting and informative.  He manages to explain (most of the time) complex financial issues so that they are understandable.  

PureLandMountain has several excerpts from blogs he has been reading.  They have interesting things to say about the bail out.  I especially liked the one who is trying to figure out which 'credit card' to pay while hoping there will be a little cash to buy food this month.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I don't know about anyone else but this whole financial mess scares me a bit.  I feel like I am on a train about to run off the edge of a wrecked bridge.  I can't do a damn thing about it.  Worse, I am the engineer, the breaks failed about ten miles back and I can't cut the power.  If the producers at '60 Minutes' thought the piece they did on Treasury Secretary Paulson last night would infuse some confidence, they failed.  What about it spiked my apprehension?  The part of the segment where he was asked what would happen if the bailout failed.  His answer: it HAS to work.  Mr. Paulson, Nothing has to work.  But you apparently have no plan B.  He has no contingencies.

Did anyone notice that the Big Three auto makers got their bail out, oops make that 'loan guarantees.'  Another however many billions gone to hell.  Also the new defense appropriations bill for some $612B.  And the budget, if you want to dignify this mess as a budget, has a massive $450+B deficit (the largest in history and the second record setting budget of the Bush Administration).  

Tom Englehardt is always good as are his guest writers.  This time it is is Chalmers Johnson.  Between them they make some interesting points that should scare people.  One that has completely escaped the mainstream media is that negotiations with the Al Maliki government on a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal compromised with the date postponed from the original 2010 into 2011.  The  determining factor was not the conditions on the ground but the American political environment, specifically the needs of the McCain campaign.  Since the ultimate source of that tidbit is an interview Al Maliki gave on Iraqi TV perhaps he was shifting the blame for an extended time table to the Americans.  Second, we seem to be funding two black holes at the same time.  I am frightened because I wonder how much will be sucked into these black holes.  How can we expect to stabilize our economy when we have the open-ended demands created by an ill-conceived and ill-executed war (I am trying to be polite here) on the one hand and the rapacious and irresponsible actions in the financial industry (I really am trying not to swear) on the other?  

Barbara Ehrenreich has a nice post on the exuberant behavior of Wall Street and how the culture of positive thinking has helped create the crisis.  She is always entertaining.  But the mind set she describes sounds much too much like Paulson's notion that the bail out will work because it has to.  

James Kunstler has another interesting post on his blog.  Reading it this morning brought back to mind Sec. Paulson's remark during the '60 Minutes' interview  that the various securities and derivatives had become so complex that no one really understood them or how to value them.  He said that these instruments had actually been constructed by physicists and theoretical mathematicians not bankers and investment mavins.  I suspect that the bankers and investment brokers understood the instruments (the math and the assumptions underlying the math) they were dealing about as well as I understand particle physics.  The comparison of our entire economy as a gigantic ponzi scheme is entirely accurate.

Wondering why I haven't said much about the debates?  Yes, I did watch.  There isn't really much to say.  McCain declared victory before the debate even began and had prepared the appropriate campaign literature to brag on that.  Obama was downplaying the end result since foreign affairs was supposedly McCain's strong suit.  I figured that if Obama held his own he would be ahead of the game and that, in fact, is how things turned out.  I don't think anything happened to sway committed voters away from their original choices.  Some articles and bloggers give McCain the edge on points.  One said that, had this been a Harvard debate, McCain would have won on points.  Well, I don't care much for style or other fluff.  On my scale Obama won, though not by a landslide.  Mr. McCain, I am sorry to say that you are one rude idiot.  A debate means that both of you speak.  Loudly running over your opponent, especially when you have no argument to make, doesn't cut it.  Also the cute anecdotes don't work.  It is nice that you wear the fallen soldier's bracelet but his mother was easily trumped by the mother of whom Obama spoke.  Also, your worshipful attitude toward General Petreus doesn't really cut the mustard.  Appeals to authority doesn't work when you are running for the job of being the authority.  Also Obama was quite right to call you out on your notion that if the economic bail-out was not passed that main street 'will' be affected.  As you opponent said Main Street has been hurting for some time.  It has just taken a bit more time for the effects to get up the hill to Wall Street.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Good Morning, All.

Yes, I did watch President Bush's address last night.  I wasn't very impressed.  First, the 'history' of how this mess came about was nicely sanitized.  No mention at all of how politicians from both sides of the isle deregulated like sailors on a drunk and replaced the so-called outmoded regulations with----absolutely nothing.  No mention of the FBI's recently started investigations into possible fraud and malfeasance.  Instead, what ever went wrong was simply people making 'mistakes.'  Mistakes are something you say you are sorry for.  Fraud is a crime for which someone should do time in a facility that is not a country club with a fence.  I am extremely suspicious of any 'solution' that merely tries to get the credit wheels greased and that is the sole thrust of this bailout.  It reminds me of the mantra in Herbert's 'Dune' (books and movies): 'The spice must flow.'  In our case it is the credit that must flow.  Nor did the President notice that the housing bubble was only the latest in a string of bubbles occurring at increasingly frequent intervals.  Nor that the latest round of bankruptcies and 'reorganizations' are simply the latest in a string of such happenings going back to the Savings and Loan crisis.  After twenty-five+ years of this kind of crap one would think someone would have a clue that the 'fundamentals' of our economy not only are not strong but seriously askew.  But I didn't get that from the President's remarks.  And I haven't gotten it from our major candidates for that office.

It is now Friday, Sept. 26.  I left off yesterday because I had errands and thought I would finish when details about the 'agreement in principle' came out.  It appears that there was no agreement, in principle or otherwise.  

Eric Altermann has a nice column here that examines how the mainstream media has covered the economic crisis.  Reading it I recall my reaction during a morning news show on Wednesday I think it was.  The news readers spent nearly five minutes giving a blow-by-blow account of the first elimination on Dancing With The Stars.  I looked at mom across the table and asked why they spent so much time on THAT story.  The economy seems to be melting down and they give us this fluff??  Where has the news media been?  I have been reading international news about mortgage defaults in Ireland and Spain, rising unemployment in India and China,  and banks across the world writing down bad assets (many mortgage based) with hardly a whisper on any mainstream outlet, national or local.  The powers that be and wanna be had better hope that the mushrooms out here don't get tired of being kept in the dark and fed shit.  When that happens they might find themselves eating that shit.

I got this link by way of a link on  Altermann's Altercation blog on MediaMatters.  I simply had to follow the links laughing hysterically all the way.  Look down in the body of the article on Forbes.com and see this wonderful section:

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."

Wow. If it wants to see a bailout bill passed soon, the administration's going to have to come up with some hard answers to hard questions. Public support for it already seems to be waning. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday, 44% of those surveyed oppose the administration's plan, up from 37% Monday.

They just wanted a 'really large number'???  In other words they don't know what the hell they are doing and wanted something that would scare the dumb masses into giving them what they wanted.

Talking about laughing hysterically:  I am sitting here looking at the blogs and writing every now and then while Mom is looking at the TV schedule.  Mom: Well, they have the "Mentalist" pilot at seven followed by the debate.  Me:  Well I guess they aren't going to start the new season of 'Numbers' starting tonight.  I thought Scifi had the start of 'Sanctuary."  Mom:  No, it has 'Stargate' all night with a new episode at nine.  I guess we will give 'The Mentalist" a look and then go into the comedy show.  Neither one of us, it seems, has high hopes for any information out of the debates.

I think I will leave this for now.  See you all later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I really had not intended to post today.  Yesterday was quite a busy blog and news hopping day.  But Rain has another good post with oodles of links to very interesting posts--all dealing with the economic meltdown.  One of the links she provided is depressing but very informative.  If you want to understand how we got to where we are and who the major players have been in creating this mess.  And John 'I don't know much about the economy' McCain was in it up to his eyebrows.

Monday, September 22, 2008

All the big guns from the Bush Administration have been out all weekend pushing the bail-out.  However, perhaps, just maybe the Legislative branch will look at this very closely.  I feel as though they are snake-oil salesmen pushing for us to buy without adequate examination or reflection.  Is this really the only way to 'save' the system?  Do we really want to save this system as it is?  Archcrone at The Crone Speaks sums up the situation very well and I agree totally.  I would also go a good bit further.  I think the legislation should include a provision that, when a mortgage is sold to the agency they want to set up, all foreclosure proceedings stop, all upward  adjustments of the interest rates or balloon payments or other adjustments that would raise payments are cancelled.  The home buyer stays in the house at the original interest and payments.  If they could not afford that the payments should adjusted to reflect what they can afford.  When the housing market recovers to a point where the house could be sold for enough to pay the original note the proceeds should go to the government.  I see no reason why the government should buy these assets at bargain basement prices, allow the banks (or whoever) to get them back at slightly higher prices and then reap a massive profit from the proceedings.

I hope that more people are getting as pissed as Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By.  I am not hopeful that the bail-out will actually work.  I hate feeling that I, and my representatives, are being stampeded into buying a pig in a poke.  And I absolutely do not believe the benefits of this bail-out will 'trickle down' to my level.  When the term was coined in the Reagan Administration, I cynically noted that many things trickle down and not all of them are pleasant.  In fact most of them are not.  I have a sneaky suspicion that what ever trickles down from this mess will have been filtered through someone's kidneys.

Evidently some people are--getting pissed and frightened that is.  Check out Donna Woodka at Changing Places.  Both of her latest entries are right on point.  This is an Administration that has proven over and over that it truly does need adult supervision.  The conduct of the Iraq War, the FEMA operation post-Katrina all point to that fact.  It has proven that it doesn't want any of us little pin heads holding the Constitution up in their faces and expecting us to actually expect them to be bound by it.  If the shear size of the monetary bail-out wasn't enough to actually include language that puts the whole operation beyond legal oversight is obscene.  But then little about this Administration has been anything but.

TPM Cafe bloggers, like Dean Baker here, have also been weighing in against the proposal bringing up many of the same issues.  I thought that the suggestion from one of the commentators that the timing of the proposal is somewhat suspicious.  Should we be surprised since the Bush functionaries have been actively pursuing long standing goals through means that have little oversight and very little opposition comment?  Think about the efforts to redefine birth control as abortion and ensure that 'pro-life' health care professionals (if they can be called professional) must be hired to work in any clinic that receives government funds even if they refuse to dispense advice or medical care that conflicts with their religious views.

Here is another link to TPM Cafe.  This time Robert Reich has five very good suggestions for conditions that should be put on any bail out.  I liked point #5 especially.  It has galled me how companies have been able to go into bankruptcy court and get the terms of contracts changed.  Don't like the conditions of the labor contract you signed?  Don't worry.  Your friendly neighborhood Bankruptcy Judge will void the whole thing.  Your assets have taken a nose dive so that what you owe exceeds the value of the assets that secure them.  Again, don't worry.  File bankruptcy and let the Judge wipe out any debt exceeding the value of the assets.  If you are a bank holding mortgage loans aren't you so glad that the homeowner can't do the same.

There are a lot more good posts on the TPM site.  I don't necessarily agree with all the points or posters but most seem to be thinking with the right part of their anatomy.

For even more check out the bloggers at Americablog.  None of them are happy campers either.

And neither, it would appear, are some of the congresscritters.  According to MSNBC today some, especially Democrats, are insisting on oversight, that taxpayers get first dibs on profits, the government get a share of participating companies, and that CEO compensation be capped.  Go, boys and girls, go.  We do not need to give out blank checks.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Good Morning, All.  I think that I will simply take you on a tour through some of the blogs that turn up as I look through my Google Alerts.

Here is an interesting one.  After Armageddon writes some good sense, I think, and very nicely says some things I have been thinking for some time.  John Michael Greer's article, 'The Effluent Society,' is in part a good review of John Kenneth Galbraith's 'The Affluent Society,' a book that provided part of the ideological basis for the modern American belief that good times were here to stay.  I have long thought that the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s were due to specific conditions that were unique to the time.  What is even better, Greer ties the bubble in housing into a broader historical context.  At the end he hopes that some historian will write an account of the last thirty years which will do that on an even broader scale.  I think someone already has started that process:  Jared Diamond in 'Collapse.'

I started this post on Sat (Sept 20).  It is now Sun.  We decided to take a little trip up to the Chellberg Farm at the Indiana Dunes.  The annual Harvest Festival is this weekend.  It was a pleasant excursion.  The farm was established in the 19th century by Swedish immigrants and is preserved by the park service.  Though open all year, they hold special events with artisans brought in to demonstrate the operations of an pre-industrial agribusiness farm.  We caught the end of the cloggers set and most of a performance by traditional musicians.  They had booths demonstrating quilting, candle making, soap making, blacksmithing, sorghum processing, an organic garden and dyeing.  We had a very good time talking to the artisans.  Between us Mom and I have enough history behind us that we could related to having done many of the processes they talked about.  I am sorry I don't have any pictures but the weather forecasters said there was a chance of rain and the at last festival we went to many vendors had signs asking that no pictures be taken.  I left my camera at home.

Now to continue my tour of blogland and the more interesting blogs I visit.

Crone And Bear It has an absolutely delightful and humorous story.  She updates the old childhood excuse about the dog that ate the homework and bring it into the high tech age.  Maybe I should warn her about my cats who, I am sure, are conspiring with other felines over the internet to take over the world.  I can't count how often we have come back to our computers to find one or the other of them sitting by the keyboard and watching what they brought up on the monitor when we KNOW we had left the machines asleep.

On Open Left, Paul Rosenberg comments on a Bill Moyers interview with Kevin Philips.  It is another very long post but is well worth the read.  I am a confirmed skeptic who leans Democratic.  My skepticism arises from a conviction that both parties are so tied into the economic mess that neither is a credible source of change.  As Moyers and Philips say in the excerpts Rosenberg includes--the present crisis has bi-partisan parentage.  Furthermore the economic indicators have been so massaged over recent years that they hide more than they reveal.  After you finish reading the account of the interview run out and find some of Philips books.  I find them right on point and illuminating.

Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts asks 'Is Winning All That Matters?'  She is right to ask the question--especially since the latest of sleazy political seasons reveals that winning the election appears to be much more important than either the principles espoused or the quality of the candidates.  However, I would observe that the question should be applied broadly in our economy and society.  I can't count the number of times I have read stories of writers caught plagiarizing their stories or books.  When I was still teaching college history courses the problem was becoming epidemic.  How often over the last years have we seen news stories of CEOs who treated the companies they ran as private piggy banks and squandered money not their own on their sybaritic lifestyles?  'Is Winning All that Matters?'  Unfortunately, the answer seems to be 'yes!!'  And worse, the illusion of success, of winning, appears more important than achieving success by any objective measure of success.  

That will be all today.  I need to get some breakfast and then do some stitching.  Have a good day, everyone.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I guess 'moral hazard' will not be imposed on the financial corporations who are 'too big to fail.'  Only on those of us who are too small to worry about.  I wonder what all the morally righteous bloggers who were against any proposals to bail out homeowners with fraudulent or near-fraudulent mortgages or borrowers whose credit lines were exhausted will be saying now.  My question is--how much are we, as taxpayers, going to be on the hook for? Can anyone even begin to say?  I am not a great fan of classical capitalism and I find the modern brand as practiced in this country abhorrent; but I would love some consistency. If people like me are held responsible for and expected to bear the consequences of our decisions, I want the CEOs and CFOs of these companies held equally responsible for the consequences of their's.  And I would like to responsibility to filter all the way down the line in these companies.

For some cogent comments about the effects of the Wall Street situation see Roni Bennett's post on Time Goes By today.  And don't assume that everything is going to be alright simply because the market seems to be erasing its earlier losses.  Unlike John McCain, who thought that the 'fundamentals' of the economy are strong (at least before the second day's market losses and Obama's calling him out on it), I think the economy is out of whack and has been for sometime.  We have an economy that rests on consumers (70+%).  I have asked, for the last dozen years or so, 'What happens when the consumer can no longer consume?'  We have been told not to worry about globalization and the jobs we have lost here because companies have shipped them 'over there.'  No one has bothered to ask, much less answer, the question 'who is going to buy the goods these companies produce when we don't have jobs that produce enough income to allow us to consume as heroically and patriotically as we once did?'  We tried--really we did.  But after maxing out half a dozen plus credit cards and tapping out our home equity lines of credit while the value of our homes fell and prices rose and our jobs disappeared or hours were cut, we can't do it any more.  By the way, where the hell is the money for these bailouts going to come from.  How do you pay income taxes on little or no income?  Especially since I don't see anyone in power, or contending for power, suggesting that we cut our losses and expenses by ending our military operations. 

I think Obama is right when he says that McCain's proposal to simply fire one man (Cox, I think it was) doesn't go far enough and that we should conduct a wholesale firing of the entire Republican establishment, including McCain.  I agree even more with his notion that we need a whole new philosophy he but only rails against the philosophy he attributes to the Republicans. He doesn't really tell us what he would replace the old one with.  I am not sure he is advocating the kind of philosophical change I think is needed.  Worse, I am fairly sure that short of a psychotic break in this society we won't get the kind of change we need.  We need a shift away from consumerism and the notion that our self-worth is summed up by the number and cost of the things we own.  Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped that his children would be judged by the contents of their characters but as he was speaking our society was already changing from one in which certain people were judged by the color of their skins to one in which the measure of the man was balance of his bank accounts and the stuff he owned.  Every now and then I see a little evidence of this on the individual level but so far none on the larger social level.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Well, this is the fourth day of often heavy rains.  The whole region has been inundated.  I grew up in this northwestern Indiana area and I can't remember flooding on this level before.  We had to go out on Saturday and found one of our major streets partly closed off with the street leading into a new strip mall under, maybe, eight inches of water.  We wondered if the street itself had collapsed but it was only water.  Only!!!  We saw one guy pull into a parking lot by one of our big grocery stores, park his truck, and get out in ankle deep water.  That was at the shallow end of the lake that had suddenly appeared in that lot.  Luckily the fellow had hip waders on.  We didn't so Mom parked on a dry spot and we threaded our way from one dry spot to the next to get into the store.  It is ironic.  August was the driest on record and, now, September, is the second wettest.  And it is only half over.  We have had schools closed by snow, on very rare occasions, but never due to rain.  Mom and I are high and dry--no flooding in our place, though we did have a couple of mighty rivers flowing swiftly down our streets on either side.  Sister wasn't so lucky and got about a foot in her basement.  They were able to move the most expensive, delicate, or necessary stuff out of the way.  She lives not far from where our family lived when I was growing up and we never had floods there.  The weather forecasters have promised us a week of clear and warmer weather.  I hope they are accurate.

To continue, we have had a couple of brief glimpses of sun and blue sky.  Hope we get more.  I know I said we needed rain a couple of posts ago but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  Melissa at Shakesville has some pictures of her neighborhood and house.  She is somewhere just west of me.  Since I started this post we have heard from more of the family who checked to see how we are and conveyed info on others.  My sister-in-law has her two grandsons for the day.  Their mother found out subsequently that the IU Gary campus was closed and she had no classes today.  The older boy's school also closed.  That side of the family are all high and dry.  

I have been reading about the Lehman/AIG/MerrillLynch situation.  One of the sound bites on the news this morning reminded viewers that the banks in trouble represent only a small percentage of the banks in the US.  That may be true but (and this is my question) is what percentage of the US economy is tied to them?  How many of the rest of the country's banks, not yet in trouble, are tied to them?  During the 2001 economic downturn, when states and cities had serious economic problems, I began thinking about dis-economies of scales.  We always hear about the ECONOMIES of scale--how as entities grow they deliver more output for lower input costs.  But, I wondered, is there a point at which that process stops and then reverses itself.  I read recently that New York City has a deficit of $2B as does the State of Illinois.  I have wondered lately if the economic pain of letting these 800 lb gorillas die would be worse than the pain of trying to bail them out.  And I wonder who would feel the worst pain.  By the way, Chris in Paris and other bloggers at Americablog have taken notice of another McCain economic advisor who seems to think that all our gloom and doom is simply our own mental problem.  Maybe we should all think happy thoughts and it will all go away.

I think I need to get to my sewing machine and turn my thoughts to something far more pleasant. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thanks to Rhea at Boomer Chronicles for her comment on my last post.  I may, indeed, gotten the Sarah Palin story from her.  Please do check out her site.  It is always worth a read.  I am just as perplexed by the polling data.  Since I don't rely on only one source much of what I get is contradictory.  I cannot believe the data indicating that the Republicans have attracted so many women voters.  Considering how totally right on the polling was during the primaries, I guess I can be forgiven for my skepticism.

And on the subject of Sarah Palin, how many were as flabbergasted as I was this morning by the McSame/Palin campaign's contention that Obama was sexist for describing their credentials as agents of change as 'putting lipstick on a pig?'  I heard that old saying before dear little Sarah was born.  My mother heard it lo-o-o-o-ong before.  There is nothing sexist about it.  It merely means making a superficial modification that doesn't change the substance of the thing.  This remark was not as sexist as her own characterization of the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom as 'lipstick.'  I guess she can be excused on the grounds of having children and ovaries.

The Cranky Crone has another entry in the 'No How, No Way, No McCain/Palin' (thank you Hilary Clinton) saga.  And to continue by this route to the discussion of statistics, I saw another one last night on the news that perplexed me.  According to ABC news, among those voters who vote on the issues Obama leads McCain by, I think, 17 points.  But among those voters who vote on 'character' McCain leads Obama by the same margin.  I wonder how many of the character voters actually know anything of the candidates' characters. I vote on the issues because I can't really know the character of the candidates.  I have never met them, talked to them face to face, or in any way interacted with them.  Besides, momentary meetings or interactions cannot truly reveal character.  McCain was a war hero 30 odd years ago, but is he the same man now that he was then?  Besides the records of 'war hero' presidents are something of a mixed bag.  Some were good; some were not.  He is also a man who cheated on his first wife.  I could go on but I think I have made my point.  

So I have to look at the issues and decide based on the candidates statements, proposals, and past actions whether I agree them on those issues.  Let's look the issue of choice--whether it is the choice in reproductive decisions, or what one reads, or with whom one communicates.  I am pro-choice.  McCain and Palin  are anti-choice on all of these issues.  I have read on several sites that McCain has voted against reproductive rights bills 183 times over his career and he has promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade.   Women fought too long and too hard for reproductive choice to give it up now and I am not willing to vote Republican on the off chance that they really don't mean their actions or their rhetoric.    

Nor am I willing to consider candidates whose actions support censorship in any form.  I have been a reader all my life.  McCain supported the Patriot Act with its National Security Letters allowing the FBI to snoop into what citizens choose to check out of the library and its warrentless wiretaps. Palin asked her local librarian what the procedure was for removing books from the shelves and then tried to fire her when she didn't cooperate.  I have read parts of Marx and Engels and parts of Adam Smith and John Locke.  I am neither communist/socialist, nor a committed capitalist.  I have read the Bible, parts of the Koran (in English, sorry to say), The Book of Mormon, and countless other religious tracts without converting to any religion.  I have read absolute drivel with great pleasure and great literature with equal pleasure.  I have been capable of making my own choices since I was thirteen and my mother told the local librarians to let me have any book I wanted on her card and threatened to raise hell if they didn't.  I will take the actions and the words at face value.  I won't say what I think they reveal about character.

For a nice little comparison of Obama and McCain over the few short years they have spent together in the Senate go to Archcrone at The Crone Speaks.  This is a blog I found very recently and it has become a frequent stop on my morning blog visits.

Boomer Chick asks a question that has been on my mind a bit lately: "why is it the government's responsibility to bail us out?"  My thoughts have taken the question into more general directions with some strange twists and turns in contemplating the financial mess the country is in.  Boomer Chick asks "Sure, you can have your white picket fence, but why do you have to get into something that has such high risks if you know darn well that sometime down the road, there might be a problem with your job or a problem with your health?"  From my own memories of my life, I, like many people, I think, started to consider negative possibilities only after something happened to bring home the fact that I should consider them. Do we really 'know darn well' that something might happen to derail our lives or what that something might be?  A little over a year ago, I had some trouble with my car.  It started running hot and spewed dense white smoke.  I replaced coolant frequently.  Thinking it might be the radiator,  because I had a minor radiator leak before when a stone had put as small puncture in it, I drove the car to the repair shop. I arrived shrouded in a cloud of white smoke rising from under the hood.  The guys at the shop knew what the problem was--a blown head gasket.  Me?? I hadn't a clue.  It was so totally outside my experience that I would never have guessed what was wrong.  I think that is the story for many people in today's economy.  The last thirty years of my experience have totally over turned the assumptions I absorbed during my first thirty years of life.  I know, now, from experience, that jobs aren't as readily available as they once were when I was younger.  I know, now, that  more education will not necessarily yield a better job having spent more time than I want to remember pursuing advanced degrees for seemingly secure careers that have evaporated.  I know, now, that the American Dream of that suburban home can be a nightmare when you are only one paycheck from disaster and that even if you keep that paycheck it doesn't stretch to replacing major appliances if they go out, or car repairs if needed, or a visit to the doctor because the job you have doesn't have health insurance.  I didn't know any of that then.  As to the original question--maybe we expect government to bail us out because we have what George Bush promised us when he tried to destroy Social Security--an ownership society.  But what we own is debt, a lot of debt, and, as Obama said at the AARP meeting, when anything goes wrong, foreseeable or otherwise, we are on our own.  By the way, it is lonely as hell, being on your own.

By the way, for anyone who wonders, I like Boomer Chick's blog a lot.  She is entertaining, informative and I visit frequently.  It is well worth the time to visit.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Obama vs McCain

I just spent nearly an hour this morning watching the appearances of both Presidential candidates at the AARP meetings and listening to their opening comments and answers to some member questions.  I thoroughly enjoyed Senator Obama's segment.  His ideas were, I thought, considered and moderate with specific examples and possible solutions.  I had a head ache and was seriously disgruntled after listening to Senator McCain.  Senator Obama stayed focused on the issues AARP opened up (health care and social security).  He answered viewer questions concerning the future funding of Social Security, the problem of health care/insurance cost and availability, and the gridlock in Washington succinctly, with focused attention, and with specific proposals.

Senator McCain, however, was entirely different.  He reminded me of a scene from the old Isaac Asimov novel 'Foundation.'  In that scene Salvor Hardin, Mayor of Terminus City, and the Chief Encyclopedist discussed the recent visit of an Imperial Emissary.  That Emissary spent several days talking about the security problems Terminus had with the rise of local, unfriendly, and covetous powers and the Empire's guarantees of protection.  Hardin remarked that he, at first,  thought the Emissary was an unmitigated ass but had since changed his mind.  A friend who specialized in a form of linguistics closely examined all of the Emissary's utterances reported back to Hardin that during all that time and talk the Emissary had made not one single, reliable promise of support.  Every statement was either so convoluted, conflicted or outright contradicted that it was meaningless.  Senator McCain's utterances were of the same nature.  He said nothing specific.  Much of what he said veered off onto other topics several of which were unrelated.  Often, at the end of a non-answer we were left wondering what the question had been in the beginning.  In the end, he has promised nothing and cannot be held accountable if he delivers nothing.  He promises change but doesn't define what that change would be.  Does merely, physically, replacing George Bush constitute change?

Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts has an interesting post today.  John McCain has, indeed, been making, for all of his career in politics, a case for his candidacy based on his status as a bona fide war hero.  I was about to ask if we are really becoming a nation of hero-worshiping idiots.  But then, having read a good bit of history, I had to remember that we so often have been.  For nearly fifty years after the Civil War both parties nominated high ranking Union officers.  Most of them were non-entities.  Ulysses Grant presided over the most scandal ridden Presidency of the last half of the 19th century.  Though he was not himself seriously implicated he did have an unfortunate tendency to find sleazy friends.  I hope this election is about the issues and not about the hero.  Otherwise we are no better than some of our ideological enemies of the Cold War with their serial cults of the hero each succeeding the other.  Or, perhaps, we will find ourselves living in another novel, '1984,' with Big Brother watching us while demanding our adulation and slavish obedience.

One of the bloggers I drop in on regularly had a post I can't find now and wish I could so I could link to it.  It concerned Sarah Palin's (you know, the Republican candidate for Vice President) sad lack of historical knowledge.  She had been asked about the words 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance and responded that 'if it was good enough for the Founding Father's' it was good enough for her.  The first point my blogger made is that the Pledge was written in the 19th century and the 'under God' phrase only added in 1954 to underscore how different we were from our Godless Communist adversaries. The Founding Fathers knew it not.  The second was that the Founders meant it when they wrote about the separation of church and state.  One of the readers noted in the comments that the Founders were greatly concerned about the interference of government in religion not the other way around.  That is an interesting comment but I have to ask: is there a point at which religion in government becomes government in religion?  Although the Constitution prohibits the establishment of a state religion by the government,  what would our society look like if the precepts of a specific religion were made the basis of our laws?  We had something similar with blue laws and temperance laws (dry counties and states).  I think we should be concerned about the religious values of those we elect and how far they would go to establish those values for all of us whether we share their religion or not.    Otherwise, we may find ourself with an undeclared state religion imposed on us on the sly.  And don't get me started on the malarky concerning the Pilgrims and their search for religious 'freedom.'  They meant their freedom to worship correctly not the freedom of others to worship otherwise.  It wasn't only witches that were hanged.  Quakers, among others, were also.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I have spent the last several days cogitating on Senator McCain's pick for VP, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  I remember telling Mom that IF the Senator were smart he would choose a woman running mate.  Well he was half-assed smart.  Unfortunately, her religious and social conservatism coupled with her support for more oil drilling have totally solidified my determination to vote for Obama/Biden.  I would vote for Snoopy before I would vote for the Republicans.  I will make several small observations on this topic and none of them concern 'trooper-gate' or her daughter.  First, I am incredibly disappointed that any of the women who supported Hillary Clinton would think that Sarah Palin is in any way a reasonable substitute.  Did they support Hillary because she had IDEAS they agreed with or because she had ovaries and breasts like they did?  I could think of a more devious possibility.  Here in Indiana, Hillary won the primary because cross-over Republicans voted for her.  She won Indiana by two percentage points but five percent of the voters on the Democratic side were actually Republicans.  Second, the fawning mainstream media cannot be really serious about Sarah being a 'maverick' any more than they can seriously consider that John McCain deserves his reputation as a maverick.  They both tow the social/religious conservative line: anti-reproductive rights (will they go after Griswold v Connecticut if they succeed in getting Roe v Wade nullified?), anti-gay/lesbian rights, anti-social security, totally in the pocket of the finance/medical/insurance industries, and totally behind George Bush's vision of the American place in the world (that of not cop but mob enforcer).  Thirdly,  I am also somewhat insulted by the blatant hypocrisy of the choice.  Senator McCain has harped on Senator Obama's lack of 'experience' and then chooses a Governor in the middle of her first term to be a, as they say, heart beat away from the Presidency.  The Republican commentators' notion that the Governor is highly intelligent and a quick study who will be intensively coached in national and world affairs over the next four years because, of course, John McCain will survive those four years is just a little disingenuous.  I am insulted because they expect me to take that fools gold for the real thing and thank them for it with my vote.  Not Likely!!

Ronni Bennet at Time Goes By covers this topic very nicely.  Can't do better than looking at her blog of what has gone on so far.

Kay Dennison at Kay's Thinking Cap has a marvelous suggestion for an alternative to the candidates already vying for our votes: acerbic, witty, mature Maxine.  I love it.  Stop by and see the video.