Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Running on Empty

I am against the Bail Out.

And I'll tell you why. If somebody asks me for $700 Billion they better be able to articulate to me why they need it, what they are going to do with it, how they are going to pay it back, and (very importantly) why they are asking ME.

I have been paying as much attention to this fiasco as any other average citizen, and I have not heard a rational explanation of why this . . . whatever it is . . . is necessary.

No explanation = no money.

What I am able to glean is that over the past several years our financial system has veered into excessive risk taking through 2 channels, i) lowering standards for evaluating borrower's creditworthiness, and ii) lenders using imprudently high leverage to increase profits. So, now that the chickens have come home to roost (ha ha), we are seeing the 2 inevitable results, i) bad borrowers defaulting on their loans, and ii) over-leveraged lenders unable to withstand rising defaults on their portfolios because of their paper thin balance sheets.

I know it's more complicated than that. But I'm not a PhD and I don't have the time, or the ability, to spend trying to educate myself now when Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke are screaming that they need this money like yesterday. The hurry! hurry! hurry! of it all reminds me of being on a sales tour at a timeshare resort. So my instinct is to keep my wallet in my pants. (That's good advice generally, btw.)

Well, I found a smart guy who has articulated my feelings on the matter, Jeffrey A. Miron, an economist at Harvard. He explains why he's against the Bail Out in a short and easily readable opinion piece HERE at CNN.com.


Lehman's Brother - Cooper Lehman

Meanwhile, back on Main Street:

Wall Street may be out of money, but Atlanta is out of gas.

At least we all get along here

There is no gas here. All of the gas stations have plastic bags over the handles of their pumps to signal that they are empty. Why? Because Texas had a big storm. Sighhhhhhh. Put two oil geniuses in the White House and what do we get? No redundancy in our vital infrastructure. Rumor is that the Port Arthur refinery is still not working because there is no electrical power to it. Can that be true? A refinery that doesn't have it's own generators? Talk about poor defense planning.

In the category of counting the glass half full, having no gas has gotten people to stop complaining about how much it costs once they are able to find some.


Of course, we Georgians are still running out of drinking water, but we've suspended our fretting about that to deal with this more imminent crisis of not being able to get to the grocery store.

Lake Lanier - Atlanta's Water Supply

I can't wait for the weekend.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Day The Music Stopped

Banks For Sale - Cheap!!!

Good morning America. All the banks have gone crazy. Make sure you have cash on hand in case the ATM networks decide to play it safe and restrict access to your bank's accounts.

Tough day to be a banker.

BTW, does anybody else see some dark irony in the inability of insurance giant AIG to manage it's own risk?

ANYWAY, I really don't know how this mess all got started, but it has to end. At the bottom of the mess is the credit crunch in housing. This is what is killing Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers and other investment banks. At least that's what we used to call them. I believe they are all just "financial institutions" now, thanks to a law called Gramm-Leach-Bliley or GLB.

That's Gramm as in Phil "Mental Recession" Gramm, the smiling fellow on the left in the picture below. Phil was a senatorial whore for the banking industry back in the day, and so pushed through GLB to repeal the old Glass-Steagall Act, which was passed back in 1933 to prevent another Great Depression caused by the collapse of our banks. I think we can all see what a great idea this was, and we should thank Phil accordingly. He's from Texas, you know, where the death penalty is enthusiastically enforced.

Old Boys Network

So, GLB got rid of the separation of banks, investment firms, and insurance companies. Now they could all merge into giant "financial institutions" that, it turns out, are "too big to fail." But fail they do, and tax money is used to prop them up.

Guess who voted for this brilliant idea! Republicans! Really. Check out the vote right here and see it split along party lines. Bill Clinton signed it though. Another nail in his legacy coffin.

Sandy Weill

What prompted all of this? Businessmen like Sandy Weill, who seems to have been president of most of Wall Street at one time or another, hired Gerald Ford and Robert Rubin and other lobbyists to push congress to dismantle Glass-Steagall. And it worked! Sandy even got an early exemption to pretend that the law didn't exist for 5 years before it was repealed, during which time he merged Traveler's Group with Citibank to form the world's largest financial institution. Wow! Impressive, but bad.

John McCain voted for the repeal. Joe Biden voted against it.

BTW, Glass and Steagall - both Democrats.

Senator Carter Glass

Congressman Henry B. Steagall

Monday, September 15, 2008

No Barack For You

Oil Oil Oil!


You can buy oil right now for $93 a barrel!

At the risk of becoming a conspiracy theorist, I have a suspicion, born of nothing but common sense and the brain God gave me, that the oil industry does not want Barack Obama leading the US, and will push oil prices down to help the economy before the election.

Six weeks ago I called $80/bbl by November 1st. But we may see it sooner.

Speaking of which, I am onboard with the Pickens Plan to make America energy independent. Check it out and please join! You can look it over by clicking here.

Iraqi Oil Well - American Soldiers

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Little Piggies as Bait

This pig kind of looks like Mike Meyers

I've just about lost any residual respect I had for John McCain over this pig with lipstick dustup. Here's where we are as of this morning.

Yesterday Barry Oh! was telling a crowd that McCain's policies are identical to W's policies. He ticked off a list of areas where Johnny and W are "on the same page." What Barry did not do was mention Sarah Palin. Not at all.

So Barry proceeds to use some of his fancy, east-coast elite "logic" on the crowd, by pointing out that electing a Republican who will continue to implement current Republican policy isn't really "change." Barry says this because Johnny Mac is now all about "change." Just ask him.

But Barry's not buying Johnny's rap. So, he says to the approving crowd, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." Or something like that.


It's an old sales expression. "Let's put some lipstick on this pig and sell it." Merrill Lynch used it in a tv ad a few years back, and was promptly chastised by the rest of the securities industry for giving away the basis of their business models.

SO ANYWAY, McCain promptly issues a statement demanding that Barry apologize to Sarah Palin for calling her a pig.

What a fucking sack of shit, as my dear old Grandma used to say.

So, why would John McCain, a self proclaimed pillar of integrity, stoop to out and out falsehoods and character assassination? The answer is the simple one. He really wants to win and will do anything he can to do so.

The risk to McCain is that people like me, who could be won over (I actually voted for McCain in the 2000 primary), will be utterly disgusted by this unethical and dishonest behavior.

But the upside is very sweet. And multifaceted.

First, there are a whole lot of people out there who will only hear about this indirectly and believe straight out that Obama must called Palin a pig. This will make them mad at Obama. This is the cheap win.

Second, the news cycle is dominated by a discussion of who said what, with Barry sitting in the virtual docket, the accused. He's on the defensive.

Third, Barry will have to respond. The best thing here for McCain would be if Barry got angry and showed it, trying not to repeat the 1988 Dukakis fiasco of appearing incapable of emotion, like Mr. Spock. Then Barry would become an ANGRY BLACK MAN. And he would lose. Next best would be for Barry to be filmed giving a long, rambling explanation of what his comments meant. This is bad because i) his comments are what they are, ii) he will appear weak, and iii) we may end up with video of Barry saying the words "Sarah Palin" and "pig" in the same sentence. That would be the lede tonight on the tv.

Mike Dukakis logically explains why he wouldn't execute a man who rapes his wife.

So, what's a brilliant, sort of black candidate to do in this situation?

Keep on smiling, brother! Show the love! Barry's got possibly the best smile I have ever seen. Smile and laugh likes it's a big, funny misunderstanding. Say, "Anyone who's smarter than a fifth grader knows what I meant!" Nice Jeff Foxworthy reference appeals to rural and southern Americans, who generally vote for Republicans. Talk about how nice Sarah Palin seems. She does seem nice, so that part won't be hard. Barry's already doing this. It's smart.

Don't get roped in. Don't get angry. It's a trap.

But it's also an opportunity to start a negative narrative on John McCain. Barry can take this pig and make a meal of it if he's on top of his game. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Oil is at $100 a bbl today!

Soooooo . . . do you think that's good news or bad news? I think it's bad news that we think it's good news.

Sheikhs on a Plane

Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid

Sheikh Rashid of Dubai has not only recently been named Crown Prince of Dubai, he also bought hisself one badass jet. It is, indeed, good to be the Sheikh.

Aerion Supersonic Business Jet
This birdie cruises at Mach 1.6, seating 8 to 12 passengers. Price is $80MM.
Where do you reckon that money comes from?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin - It's Over :(

Nobody likes me
Ev'rybody hates me
Guess I'll go eat worms

Surprise! Every real-life person I know hates Sarah Palin. They really, really hate her! She's the opposite of Sally Fields.

Sally - lookin' good back in the day

So, let's hop on this bandwagon and start some Palin bashing!

Why do we hate Sarah so? For one thing, she wears fur. Grrrrrrrr.

And don't think that we are above some good, old fashioned, cheap political mockery. Here is Sarah dropping her hubby off at the sweat lodge on her way to an overdue waxing.

That has to feel weird

Even the Republicans are only pretending to like her. And it's only going to get more pathetic from here. Everyone, meaning the Republicans, will blame John McCain. He was close in the polls until be picked this North Pole retro-mom. (Snark!) He coulda been a contender, instead of a bum.

I would predict that Sarah will at least end up with a secure career on the pro-life speaking circuit, but that voice. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard. I already reach for the remote as soon as I hear it.

Wake me up when it's time to vote.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin Again!

All Eyes Are On Sarah!
So the big question on everyone's mind before she gives her prime time speech tonight is,
"What should she wear?"

Well, let's take a look and see what we think America's new Brown Eyed Girl should wear.
1. The heavy, cream colored silk jacket and black skirt from the other day?

No no no. First, it's too tight, making her look fat when she's not. (Especially next to Skinny Cindy.) Second, the flaired jacket over the dark skirt is a classic "hide my fat, enormous ass" trick that is not only unecessary here, but never fools anybody.
2. The Red Business Suit.

Red is the Republican's color of choice these days, so maybe. But I don't think so. It's time to face some harsh truths. Sarah looks hairy. In the way that Greek girls tend to. She has really really thick, dark hair, bushy eyebrows, and wispy hints of sideburns. So far, no big woop. But throw in a pretty significant nose and a jawbone that you could slay a mammoth with, and you have some very strong features that need to be addressed.
The red does nothing for her. Sarah's skin is not red toned, it is brown toned. All the red suit does is call attention to her bright red lipstick, which then makes you realize that she has put herself into the wrong colors. And that is not the kind of judgment we look for in a Vice President.
3. How about a pale gray business suit?

Again, no. While this might be OK as an office staple, this shade makes her normally warm, brown toned skin look grayish, which does not look healthy. And we want Sarah to look healthy! She is a vibrant, strong woman who can kill an elk with a knife, have five babies, and win fights with cops! She cannot show up appearing anemic. Gray is out. Besides, it's a boring color.

Compare the same suit on someone with pink toned skin. That is where this color works.

4. No scarves. Please.

5. Ditto for turtlenecks.

6. Same for . . . oh my God it's one of those puffy down coats from the 80's!

Congrats to Sarah for having a Black Friend! They can't be easy to find in Alaska. But that does not excuse the coat.

7. OK, don't avert your eyes yet. Try to ignore the crazy blue shirt collar for a moment, and look at how Sarah's skin responds to the brown windbreaker here. It's very comlementary. I think brown may work for Sarah. Plus it's an unusual color, which will create buzz.

8. How about basic black?

Well, it is an evening event, and it's officially fall, but I just don't think that black will work well, either for Sarah or for tv. The stage seems dark already, and with her dark mass of hair, she may well just seem to disappear.
9. Prom Dress?

YES!!! This is a direction we can work with. Not the pink, but definitely the glam. It's Prime Time, baby! Time to put on a show! Slam 'em and glam 'em and razzle bedazzle 'em. Tonight is Sarah's night to make a statement. No suits. No jackets. No Plain Jane, Sister Bertrille outfits. You're a woman, so look like a woman!

A few things work well here. First, going with an evening gown or dress will make Sarah look more sophisticated. The business suits make her kind of look like a school marm who just got promoted to vice principal. And she needs a little sophistication to snuff out an ugly "hillbilly woman" narrative that is beginning to get some traction.
Second, Sarah is curvy. Just like a woman! A dress will emphasize this in a positive way. After all, the woman thing is part of the sales pitch, right?
Third, the open neckline works really well because Sarah's face area is so busy with all of the hair, the glasses, the big earrings. Not to mention the schnozz and the jawbone. An open neckline gives these things some room to breathe. Sarah has a lovely face and it needs a large frame.
10. Legs.
Sarah's got legs. So make the dress knee length. This will also look more traditional and be way easier to walk around in.
Summary - So, I think what we are looking for is a knee length, brown dress with an open neckline. Here are some visual cues:
Greek Girl in an open neckline

Some Random Brown Dresses

Throw in your handsome husband, and it's the night of your dreams.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin

Big John giving the Tony Soprano Fist Pump

John McCain is apparently determined that if any torch is to be passed to a new generation of Americans, he wants to do the passing. Thusly, we are introduced to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

My wife already hates her.

Oddly, I predicted this pick in my May 9, 2008 post. And since I'm rarely right about these things prediction-wise, please permit me to point this one out.

Although I disagree with Sarah about many political issues, what little I know about her I find charming. "Charming" is not supposed to be a basis for picking elected political leaders, but that's democracy! I can base my vote on any thing I damn well please! And I will.

I am assuming this is fake

While others harp, I give kudos. McCain obviously knows that sometimes you just have to say, "What the fuck . . ." and take a leap of faith. That's what this looks like to me. Not desperation, but a real leap of faith.

McCain had to see that the big picture had him drifting toward defeat. But this election is still winnable for him. He needed to bust a move, but a smart one. Boldness is risky with the electorate these days, especially after all that "bring it on" idiocy that Curious George gave us didn't work out so well. So McCain found in Sarah a bold move that can rightly be characterized as a bold Return To Responsibility. She's a real reformer, with some energy policy cred, and has stood firm against wasteful government spending when taxes and the budget deficit should be big issues in this election.

News-wise, this pick seems to have had a good short term effect. Sarah's pick has truncated the buzz of Obama's great speech. If not for the hurricane (Gustav), she'd be the talk of the town right now. The pregnant teen daughter story should run for the rest of the election. Will she get married? Is the boyfriend a bum? How do we know it's his? What kind of nightmare family is he going to bring to this fiesta? That should help to kill the Dem's narrative that the GOP ticket is out of touch with low class Americans.

Sarah, all the while, is one perky peach. The giant, ultra-white smile, the big goofy glasses, the aura of the nerdy, brainy girl who turns out to be a real hotty at the end of the movie. In a middle-aged, Republican sort of way, of course. Even the dorky, Francis McDormand Fargo accent. It's all somehow appealing. All of her quirkiness makes her seem more normal.

Compare that to Mitt Romney, whose lack of personal faults and Ward Cleaver type of hyper-normalcy just make him seem weird.

Sarah's Alaska roots make her more outdoorsy than everyone I know. She sounds like some kind of hunter-gatherer woman who has a double life as an executive in the city. But I would definitely want her on my Survivor team.

Sarah as Miss Nude Alaska 1984

The real speculation is whether Sarah can attract the Pumas. Pumas!!! Hah hah! Who made that name up? (Party Unity My Ass, in case you were wondering.) These are the women who are still mad about Obama beating Hillary. And they are specifically mad at Obama. I'm not sure why.

Well, most of these Puma gals are verrrrry pro-choice. And Sarah is not. So, a Republican vagina on the ballot may not be enough to get them excited.

But . . . it may very well be enough to get a lot of the more politically conservative women excited. Excited enough to get out and vote, when they would otherwise be too busy. Except for the occasional loud mouthed tv kook, like Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham, these women are a largely ignored demographic. But there's a lot of them around here, and in other "swing states" too.

Laura Ingraham - Loud & Stupid

Coulter - Skanky, Obnoxious, Inexplicably Famous

So, we'll have to see how Sarah performs on the big stage. I will definitely watch the Veep Debate now, where I probably would have skipped it if Romney or Pawlenty was the candidate. I think Biden will do well against a woman. Catholic boys are taught good manners, and learn how to argue with a Nun without going over the line.

At least now we have a reason for watching the election again.

Don't forget to vote!