Sunday, October 26, 2008

Greenspan Shrugged

This past week Alan Greenspan made a shocking admission. He admitted that a cornerstone of his economic faith, namely the belief that unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism may NOT be a net good to society. This admission by the high priest of monetarism, the "money changers, money changer" is on the magnitude of the Catholic Church changing its position on gay marriage or abortion.

Greenspan finally admitted to something that he had been incessantly warned against during the 90s, namely that carte-blanche deregulation would cause the individuals that particiapte to get greedy and do risky things in the short run that would eventually threaten the viability of the system in the long run.

But should we believe him?

This is a man who suckled at the teat of Ayn Rand. He was part of her inner circle and was so close to her that he was privy to proofs of Atlas Shrugged before it was published. One would think that any follower of Ayn Rand, the same woman who found virtue in selfishness and weakness in altruism, would (if they were true believers) be able to predict that individual hubris would triumph over the needs of the community on the whole.

Therefore when Alan Greenspan admitted under questioning by Rep Henry Waxman (D-California) this week that he was shocked that the bankers selling risky derivatives would throw it all away just for their own personal enrichment I actually think he revealed a lot more than just this late in life epiphany.

If he was not lying to Rep Waxman, then I think it revealed that he never really understood the philosophy espoused by his mentor or thought through its consequences.

Perhaps the venerable oracle of the Fed Reserve was not as sagacious as his demeanour implied.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Beauty Queen and The Fruit Fly

"ummm aaah US Americans are ummmmah...." remember the Miss South Carolina beauty queen who gave us that eloquent answer when asked what could we do about the fact that Americans couldnt find the United States on the map...well I think Ms Palin made an equivalent science gaffe this past week when she criticized the allocation of funds to fruit fly research in her usual derisive and dismissive "Roseanne Barr" voice.

Any 11th grade Science student would know that the humble fruit fly (Latin: Drosophila Melanogaster) is the entity of choice for basic experimentation in the genetics area because it has unusually large chromosomes which are easily manipulable and detectable under even a simple light microscope.

I certainly knew that based on my 11th grade Biology experiments in Mr Hutton's science class back in 1983 in a humble publicly funded school in an Ottawa suburb, when we bred fruit flies and experimented with theories of dominant genes and recessive genes and such......

.....and even if you assume a former sportscaster / beauty queen should not know basic science (because Lord knows the dumbass believes humans shared the earth with dinosaurs since she does not believe in evolution and reads Genesis literally) you would think that her speech writers and her "science advisor" would keep her out of this pitfall....but alas and alack...the McCain campaign once again shows they are a bunch of amateurs....from the Hagee endorsement onwards they have showed incredibly bad judgement and it just continues.

Makes one long for the days of Senator Danforth Quayle....and the "potatoe"

Sunday, October 05, 2008

From the Audacity of Hope to the Embracement of Mediocrity

Parents around the US regardless of their political affiliation can probably look upon the careers of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Kay Bailey Hutchinson and say that they would love for their little boys or girls to emulate them. These people are true glass ceiling destroyers. As Americans we are proud that we live in a country where people like the aforementioned can rise from humble origins to the heights of power based entirely on their innate capabilities, hard work and discipline. Anyone of these people would inspire us common folk by the sheer audacity of their own hopes. They understand the common man because they arose from families of "commoners" (to use a British term) but they are not necessarily common. In fact their talents and cerebral agility make them extraordinarily uncommon.

This however is not the case with Sara Palin. This is a woman who is extraordinarily ummmm....common. She has not really done anything worth mentioning that would qualify her to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. There is no public record of her spending even a minute thinking about anything important to this country or the world. Her choice was pure politics and McCains embrace of her is the final sellout of a former maverick and highly regarded contrarian. He has basically bowed to convention and joined the forces that he tried his whole life to beat.

The American people have seen over the last 8 years what can happen to the country when they elect someone who pushes his ordinariness as a qualifying attribute for the highest office. The country is too complicated and the world too dangerous to allow a rube to wield the reins of power. Americans more than anyone should now understand that curiosity is a necessary condition for the Presidency. This curiosity about the world is revealed in ones reading, writing and travels. In Sara Palins case the writing (no public record of any of her writings on any matter of importance to the Presidency) and travel (she only got her first passport in 2007) is non existent and the reading based on her vacuous answers in her interviews and her debates is probably also non existent.

Sara Palin's elevation is the final act in the embracement of mediocrity and anti-intellectualism which we have allowed to permeate our national politics and thinking. Therefore one hopes that this Hail Mary pass that McCain has thrown either ends up as a fumble or an interception. If Sara Palin scores a touchdown and achieves the vice presidency then the meltdown that the country has faced in the last 8 years will look like a Sunday morning stroll by comparison.

The upcoming week...

I predict its going to get really really ugly....McCain is going to bring up the Bill Ayers connection (total BS....$200 donation in 2001) and Obama should bring up the Keating 5 connection...all this is worthless anyway because I feel that a fundamental shift is occurring which is making Obama's race less relevant in the heartland states....I just checked my 401 K and its down about 20%....In a few days Americans will be getting their Q3 401K statements and its going to play nicely for the Dems.

A major screwup

When Tina Fey aka Sara Palin or "Para-sailin" or whatever her name is referred to General David McKieran as General McClellan on two ocassions in the debate Joe Biden didnt take her up on the mistake. Amazing restraint and clearly Biden stuck to the playbook which was to not do the Al Gore "sigh and condescend" strategy. Great discipline.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Socialized Investment Banking?

For years Republicans have railed against all things socialist...medicare, affirmative action and Barbara Streisand :)...BUT it seems they are willing to look the other way when it comes to the Feds salvaging that great bastion of unfettered capitalism....Investment Banking.

It seems that if you actually catch pneumonia and need hospitalization and you don't have insurance then the GOP will say you are on your own (or you could borrow the money on your high interest credit card to save your life) BUT if your friendly neighborhood investment bank catches chronic, existential financial pneumonia (because of a series of bad investment decisions) then the Feds will jump over backwards to ensure that the patient is saved at taxpayer expense.

The same sector that asked for self governance and no government interference is now willing to prostitute itself to the entity it hates most ie the Federal government in order to save itself.

The same Congress that can never seem to find the money to do things like fix roads, inner city schools, inspect shipping containers for nukes, provide health care to all citizens, provide more college loans, save the citizens of New Orleans from Katrina seems to magically find the money when it is for the Iraq War ($1 trillion) or Wall Street bail outs ($700 Billion and counting).

Where did they get the $700 Bn from? The Chinese?

Slouching towards Gomorrah or bouncing, perkily towards Armageddon?

I know Republicans around the country are breathing a collective sigh of relief that Palin’s head didn’t explode last night but to say that she has passed the test and is now ready for the highest office (as David Brooks asserts this morning in the NYT) is patently ridiculous.

What we saw last night was candidate Bush 2000 in drag…..a plain speaking, naïve, folksy, rube who would probably be great to go to a ballgame or share a beer with, but completely unfit to represent the United States on the world stage.

If last nights debate was for electing the mayor of a second tier American city, like say Cleveland or for electing an Alderman for a south side of Chicago ward then I would think she passed the test but nothing above that.

The water carriers of the GOP in the MSM and on FOX are already touting her "great", "feisty" performance and this spin will shape public opinion in the next few days.

My favorite part of the debate was Palin’s attempt to absolve Bush of all sins by saying it was the past and that if Obama believed in change he shouldn’t be looking backwards…..(Of course if you are a Democratic President and you are involved in a murky land deal from 10 years before you enter the WH, that nets you a paltry $100K profit then its ok to get a special prosecutor and spend 4 years and $100Mn of taxpayers money investigating it but if you are a Republican President and you recklessly take the nation into a $1 trillion dollar war of choice and then screw it up beyond all belief then it’s a mistake that requires one to forgive, forget and move on?)

I guess personal responsibility is a value that only Democrats have to adhere to in national politics.

I will never understand the anti-intellectual streak that seems to run deep in the American body politic. I will never get the "aw shucks populism" that now seems to be a necessary criteria for someone to run successfully for President. (Reagan may have been a populist but he was also an intellectual by todays standards). I guess its become necessary that we want our President to look and act and talk like the schlepps that we are.

It is now more likely that we will NOT end up slouching towards Gomorrah as Robert Bork predicted but rather bounce, perkily all the way into Armageddon with Tina Fey carrying the flag….….or is it wearing the lapel pin of the flag on her common sense every day business suit.

We will find out soon enough!