* The ineptitude of impetuousness meets the gall of arrogance – The U.S. government has provided over $150 billion to American International Group (AIG) to bail the mega-insurer out of financial paralysis due to risky, stupid, secretive and greedy decisions. It is estimated that the U.S. now owns almost 80% of the company. One would surmise that a representative of government would now be involved in AIG decision making to protect our investment in the firm. Apparently that is not the case. AIG has proposed “retention payments” to 38 top executives that range in amounts from $92,500 to $4 million. These retention payments would in some cases double or triple the salary of some of these managers. A responsible person might ask why pay limited and borrowed resources to retain the “brain” trusts that created this financial disaster. Rather than spend money to retain them they should be fired. Let them join the unemployment lines of people worried sick about how they will support their families, the innocents who were not responsible for the current financial implosion. Rewarding dishonesty and incompetence brought us to this financial brink. Its continuation is not a solution.
* Our financial world ~ what in the name of greed and stupidity happened? – Many people are asking how the U.S. got into the financial mess/disaster confronting us. I suggest one take the time to read the analysis of one of the preeminent economists of our day, Joseph Stiglitz. His article “Capitalist Fools” in the January 2009 edition of Vanity Fair lists the five reasons why we are in an economic crisis. They include:
~ Regan’s firing of FED Chairman Paul Volker and naming Alan Greenspan to the post in 1987
~ Deregulating the financial markets beginning in 1997
~ The Bush tax cuts and artificially low interest rates
~ Every major accounting firm and most of the banks lied about financial conditions
~ The government’s response to the financial crisis
This is a must read for anyone interested in what happened and a lesson for not repeating history, again.
* The golden years just became brighter! - Two new studies point to a way to fight Alzheimer’s Disease, red wine and marijuana. Researchers from Ohio State University reported that THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, may reduce inflammation in the brain and even stimulate the formation of new brain cells. Neurologist David Teplow of UCLA reported that polyphenols - naturally occurring components of red wine - block the formation of proteins that build the toxic plaques thought to destroy brain cells. In addition, these substances can reduce the toxicity of existing plaques, thus reducing cognitive deterioration. Now, if I could only remember where the hell I put my bong!
*Recession or Depression? – Forget the economic mumbo jumbo, statistics and graphs. If the guy next door has lost his job it is a recession. If you have lost your job it is a depression. And if you follow the White House and Congress’ attempt to fix the financial problems, that are primarily of their making, it is depressing. From one election to the next we tend to forget the egregious actions of our politicians. It is time to take notes so we do not forget. We elected these people and must now deal with the blisters! (see Abraham Lincoln’s observation at the end of this blog.)
* The macho NRA is loosing tumescence – The National Rifle Association (NRA), in one respect a lobbyist for gun manufacturers, is experiencing its influence waning. In the most recent election the “gun rights” mouthpiece spent over $7 million in a national fear campaign to defeat Barack Obama and other candidates in favor of gun control. NRA-endorsed candidates lost 80 percent of their races against gun-control candidates. Looking at the obverse side of the debate, The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, an organization I strongly support, saw more than 90 percent of the candidates it endorsed win their races.
Our country is about to change many approaches as to how it thinks and does business and that includes its viewpoint towards guns. It is well-beyond time the canard about Second Amendment rights for citizens to bear arms be put to rest. This amendment was instituted centuries ago when militias were an important element in the defense of the U.S. The number of guns that exist in our country, governed by archaic laws and control, is absurd. No other western industrialized society allows for such a condition. When an organization such as the NRA lobbies for assault weapons to be owned by private citizens, what more does one need to know? When the NRA fights a city such as Philadelphia that has attempted to limit gun ownership so that citizens and police are not cut down at an alarming rate it is time for responsible government leadership to set intelligent guidelines for gun control. For a better understanding of the issues I recommend a visit to The Brady Campaign.
* Make love, not war ~ world peace through tumescence – The third annual Global Orgasm is about to take place. The organizers of the Global Orgasm, evolutionary behaviorists Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell, would like everyone to synchronize their greatest surge of physical and spiritual power on the Solstice, December 21st between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. The theory is that if enough people can experience orgasm in the same time frame while projecting a conscious intention for peace and harmony on the planet, a surge of physical and spiritual positivity will infuse the Earth's energy field. Count me in!
* Conservatively speaking – Since the financial crisis began conservative pundits have tried to blame the mortgage part of the crisis on programs designed to help poor people become homeowners. It was not the greed of the financial industry, it was not the lack of federal regulation, it was the liberal do-gooders. This week the House Oversight Committee interviewed four former CEOs of Freddie and Fannie Mae. They were asked if poor people caused the current financial crisis. They all responded that it was not. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said that 400,000 documents amassed by the committee showed that the right-wing claim is nothing more than a conservative myth. Conservative thinkers and politicians are so busy running from the wreckage of their policies that alibis and urban myths substitute for veracity. And this is not intended to give a free pass to the Democrats. Deregulation began in the Clinton White House and some of these people are currently advising Barack Obama. It is a pause for concern.
* Legacy 43 – President Bush and his emissaries are making the rounds promoting a fairy tale story line about what Bush’s legacy should be. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a non-profit investigative journalism group, studied the Bush presidency. An article about the study is entitled, “Depth of Bush Failures Surprised Even Us.” On the ability of the Bush administration to get things done the study noted: 730,000 backlogged patent applications, 760,000 backlogged Social Security disability claims, and 806,000 backlogged Veterans Affairs disability claims.
“The results of the investigation, which are summarized at CPI's PaperTrail blog and presented in full at its Broken Government project, are stunning in their scope even for those who have been following the scandals of the last eight years.” Some of the more notable elements of Bush’s real legacy include:
~ $300 billion over budget for Defense Department weapons acquisitions
~ $100 billion lost every year to corporate offshore tax shelters
~ complete failure of a $100 million attempt to create a new system of internal information-sharing for the FBI in the wake of 9/11
~ $9.91 billion spent on government secrecy in 2007
~ the dismissal of all but 17 out of the 1273 whistleblower complaints filed from 2002 to 2008
~ pollution that causes 20,000 deaths a year and puts 60,000 newborns at risk of neurological problems
~ a two-thirds dropoff in the cleanup of toxic waste sites, and 2.5 million toxic toys recalled in the summer of 2007
“Toxic waste site” could be one description of the condition of the United States as Bush leaves office and that, unfortunately for the American people, is the George W. Bush Legacy.
* “Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”