Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Dance!

July 15, 2010

All is not a bed of roses, but semi-good things are happening.  We need to take whatever good, in whatever degree, comes our way.

Today the Senate passed the financial reform bill.  While it does not prevent corporate pirates from ransacking and looting our financial structure, it does provide some protection for consumers.  As Paul Volcker commented, even if we do pass tight legislation to prevent a similar financial meltdown as we experienced two years ago, the investment wizards will just come up with different vehicles to slam us:

“There is a certain circularity in all this business,” he concedes. “You have a crisis, followed by some kind of reform, for better or worse, and things go well for a while, and then you have another crisis.”

I said it before and I will say it again: a sound country with a sound government based on a sound economy goes back to the underlying ethics, and the willingness to value the right thing over the mighty buck.  That said, any new regulations will be of help.

Also today, it appears that BP’s new cap on the oil spill is working.  Let’s not hold our breath, but let us be grateful for small favors.

We haven’t had this much “joy” in a long time.  So celebrate ……. and dance!

Is this the absolute sweetest picture in the entire world?????

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From Crisis to Cocoon: The Electronic Repudiation of Humanity

April 23, 2010

Yesterday I posted “The Funny Before the Storm”.  Here comes the storm.  Let me move through this post because I almost busted a gut, the agita and aggro were enormous,  and I really do not want to re-live all the stress that befell me.  Alas, some of the issues are still not resolved.

America has become such a burgeoning repository for “bigger is so much better”, bureaucracy and bullshit.  With the widespread use of voice mail and Email, the depersonalization of our nation is just about complete.  The two electronic types of mail have allowed our government, retail outlets, service enterprises and corporate entities to discard any semblance of responsibility in honoring a contract or obligation.  Why be answerable to any committment if you can hide behind empty electronic conduits?

Allow me to share with you the events of the past week that have brought me to the edge of sanity.  By the way, I have been told that my responses to the various acts of incompetence were a violation of polite protocol.  Thus, the guilty parties once again avoided resolving the initial issues that caused me to cross the line of political correctness (God forbid) by responding to my “sarcasm” rather than their substantive mistakes.  Great avoidance strategy —- for them.

At work, I was due a credit by one of our vendors who supply us with electronic assistance.  I spoke with the VP (VPs, especially executive VPs, seem to be a dime a dozen) and she agreed the charge was inappropriate and that she would credit our account accordingly.  A month passed, and I received a new bill, still without the credit.  I spoke again with the VP and told her an Email to whomever was in charge of issuing credits was not resolving the issue.  I told her that she would have to get up from her chair, walk over to the person in charge of issuing credits, actually speak and communicate with another human being and wait there until the feat was accomplished.  She called me back in ten minutes, said I had been right and voila, I got my credit.  My dear managers: requesting something by Email is not the same thing as getting the job done.  It is simply passing the buck.

Without providing details, know that I had business with a bank, one with which I have had a seven-year, active relationship.  Documents needed to go back and forth, but a sweet, saucy little gal decided to put these docs into the electronic ether world (perhaps “netherworld is a more apt term), passing them on to some other buck-passer and considering her job done.  Twice these papers sat, on her desk and in Email, for three weeks.  Finally , an executive VP called her and got the ball rolling.  This VP thought I was out of line by suggesting that perhaps she should make contact with this do-nothing employee.  After all, it seems the greatest care must be taken not to step on your co-workers’ toes or violate the “chain of command”.  Servicing the client does not hold any water.  Corporate correctness is so much more important than fulfilling a client’s contract.  The term “service” is as dated and useless as is the rotary phone.  To make a long story short, after having experienced the incompetence of the employee-conduit (An empty job justified by what?  Who was this cutie pie sleeping with at the bank in order for her to keep this job despite her deep incompetence?  For every month of her delaying tactics in preventing this new loan, at a lower rate than the old one, of raking in the higher fees from me, was she cut a bonus check borne on my back?) the VP went back and threw the final resolution right back into this idiot’s hands.  You know you are really in trouble when the problem gets assigned to the “conflict resolution” department.  Then when I exploded at the repeated stupidity of management, I was deemed the person doing the violating instead of being violated.  Never mind that their practices of incompetence were so deep that they bordered on unethical; no Siree.  It appears my honest, angry response was the crime here.

Third example.  The gravestone for my Dad has been completed since late January.  However, the employees of the cemetery in N.J. needed some spice and drama in their lives.  I guess you could chalk this up to the fact that they deal with dead people all the time, which does not lend itself to excitement.  At any rate, it has been almost three months and the powers-that-be at the memorial park have yet to prepare the foundation so that the stone can be installed.

I want you to call this main number for the cemetery, 201-262-1100,  and listen to the recording.  I promise you: no live human being will ever answer the phone.  It will always be a recording.  Experience for yourself the authoritative, commanding aggression of the New Jersey roller derby queen.  Talk about creating firewalls.  Would you even attempt to take your inquiry even one step past this warrior?  I did.  I was also called “sarcastic”, the crime of the century.  Not the fact that the monument for my father’s grave has been sitting around for three months.  Call the number.  Get your laughs.

Finally, I was tortured this week by my health insurance company, who, after one month of trying to rectify a prescription order, still has not delivered any resolution.  The firewalls established by Wellpoint are so deeply ingrained that even their own executives cannot get past them.  I have spoken with so many VPs that it would make you dizzy: the VP of Pharmaceutical Services, the VP for Prescription Fulfillment and the VP and Manager for Pharmaceutical Solutions.  Trust me: there is no “management” going on and there certainly has been no resolution.  Hell, these executives, masters of passing on the contractual servicing of their clients, wouldn’t know the meaning of the words management and resolution if they smacked them squarely in their faces.  They know, as well as I know, that by delaying any corrective measures, their goal is the hope that the policyholder will just give up.  They picked the wrong policyholder this time.  Do me a favor: give VP Mike Lindsay a call at 972-599-6258 and tell him to A) return my calls and B) get on the stick and comply with his contractual obligations.  I have had it.  Time for me to go public.  All reason has failed; the time for reciprocity of harassment has come.  I appreciate your support.

Finally, the nonsense and avoidance practices of health care insurance companies are disgusting.  My experiences aside, I have always preached about the folly of electronic medical records, mainly because I believed that one’s medical records should remain private, not floating out there in the electronic ether world, just ready to be accessed by anyone, especially one’s own insurance company, who will use it against the policy holder to either deny or rescind coverage.  With the passage of the HCR bill, mandating that everyone must be covered and no insurance company may refuse insurance due to a pre-existing condition, my initial opposition to electronic records supposedly has no more validity.  Wait:  read this article about Wellpoint (not them again — the irony of it all) cancelling the coverage of their clients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Additionally, a recent report has admitted that the mistakes made by doctors and health care professionals using electronic records has been substantial.  Perhaps the physician did not bother to check the name of the file on his computer before writing a prescription.  Perhaps he forgot to advance the screen from an earlier patient’s records, and the records on his screen are not at all that of the patient he is currently seeing.

O the humanity!  Or lack thereof.  That is clearly the problem.  There is no humanity in electronic medical records.  The publicly stated (over and over again) purpose for digital medical records was to make it less likely for doctors to make mistakes.  It appears the opposite is true.

In fact, in our hip, electronic, modern world there is no longer the need for contact and communication.  The new World Order is to go electronic, as if by doing so the problem has been resolved.  When life, government and business are wholly focused on the biggest (and thus, supposedly, best) scenario as possible, the advent of electronic transmission of information takes precedence over delivering the requested, necessary action.  Quality is abandoned for quantity.  No humanity there.  Passing the buck has become our national excuse for fulfilling one’s job description.  Purpose is subjugated and absolutely secondary to the digitization process.

Enough.  On with my battles.  Sorry to have unloaded on you.  I am going to try to attain cocoon status now for the weekend.

POSTSCRIPT:

Flash! This just in: the cemetery just called me and the foundation has been installed.  But please do still call the cemetery to hear that wonderful recording.  The amazon on the tape is ten times more New Jersey than any of Springsteen’s women.

The Funny Before the Storm

April 22, 2010

I am planning a post on the depersonalization of the corporate world, retail outlets,  service enterprises and even law firms.  Needless to say, my week has been a bloody mess, and the stress almost ate me alive.  Just preparing the post has caused me to feel nauseated.  So in anticipation of my next, very serious post, here are some laughs for some anticipatory relief.

Lipstick in School (priceless)

According to a news report, a certain private school in  Washington was recently faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick, they would press their lips on the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night the maintenance man would remove them, and the next day the girls would put them back. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done.

She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the maintenance man. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. (You can just imagine all the yawns from the little princesses.) To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required. He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.         Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers.. . . and then there are educators.

Love At 36,000 Feet

A man boarded an airplane and took his seat. As he settled in, he glanced up & saw the most beautiful woman boarding the plane.

He soon realized she was heading straight towards his seat. As fate would have it, she took the seat right beside his.

Eager to strike up a conversation he blurted out, “Business trip or pleasure?”

She turned, smiled and said, “Business. I’m going to the Annual Nymphomaniacs of America Convention in Boston .”


He swallowed hard. Here was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen sitting next to him and she was going to a meeting of nymphomaniacs.

Struggling to maintain his composure, he calmly asked, “What’s your business role at this convention?”

Lecturer,” she responded. “I use information that I have learned from my personal experiences to debunk some of the popular myths about sexuality.”

“Really?” he said. “And what kind of myths are there?”

“Well,” she explained,” one popular myth is that African-American men are the most well-endowed of all men, when in fact it is the Native American Indian who is most likely to possess that trait…

Another popular myth is that Frenchmen are the best lovers when actually it is men of Jewish descent who are the best.

I have also discovered that the lover with absolutely the best stamina is the Southern Redneck.”

Suddenly the woman became a little uncomfortable and blushed.”I’m sorry,” she said, “I shouldn’t really be discussing all of this with you.. I don’t even know your name.”

“Tonto,” the man said, “Tonto Goldstein, but my friends call me Bubba.”


Goldman CEO to Perform Community Service as Treasury Secretary


‘Will Do Less Harm’ in New Post, Says Treasury Spokesperson

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) ­ In a settlement of the
government’s securities fraud case against Goldman Sachs, the
bank’s CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, has agreed to perform two years of
community service as Treasury Secretary of the United States.

At a press conference in New York, Mr. Blankfein said that as Treasury
Secretary he would “continue to do God’s work as I did at Goldman,
but at a significant pay cut.”

A Treasury Dept. spokesperson said that by performing community
service as Treasury Secretary, Mr. Blankfein will be able to do less harm
to the economy because he will have significantly less power than he had as
Chairman of Goldman.

His experience at Goldman, however, will be “invaluable” in his new
role as Treasury Secretary, the spokesperson said: “Lloyd
Blankfein’s years of marketing worthless securities have prepared
him for the important task of selling Treasuries to the Chinese.”

Mr. Blankfein is the latest in a long line of Goldman chairmen to serve
as Treasury Secretary, although he is believed to be the first to do so
while wearing an electronic ankle bracelet. More here.

The Haircut

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut.

After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’  The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop came in for a haircut. When he tried to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you.  I’m doing community service this week.’ The cop was happy and left the shop.

The next morning when the barber went to open, he found a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting at his door.

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut. When he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The Congressman was very happy and left the shop.

The next morning, when the barber went to open, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.

BOTH POLITICIANS AND DIAPERS NEED TO BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASON.


Many thanks to my humor editor, Ms. Seven Striper and her assistant Lilleyhope.


The Height of American Justice

April 20, 2010

This past weekend, I watched a remarkable documentary on public television.  It was titled “Locked Out: The Fall of Massive Resistance” and was produced by the University of Virginia Center For Politics along with WCVE PBS Richmond.  The program follows the legal, civil and personal battle for school integration in Virginia.

As I watched, I felt disoriented and sucker-punched.  Why?  The ugly, ugly words coming out of the mouths of Virginia’s leading politicians, law and order types, teachers and just regular citizens took my breath away.  As if those times weren’t bad enough, I felt as though I was re-living that prejudice and ignorance today as I listen to the tenets of the Tea Party, militia groups and still and yet, our leading politicians.

To hear speakers from 60 years ago espouse defamatory words about American citizens who just happen to have dark skin made me wince.  There were politicians in high office, i.e. the Governor, who swore that, even after the passage of Brown v. Board Of Education of Topeka in 1954, integration would never happen in Virginia.  If it took armed state militia and a closing down of all public schools, so be it.  It did, but the state government had to bow to the new federal law.  However, to hear mainstream, elected leaders calling integration “not democratic” or saying that segregation was one of the mainstay founding principles of this country was reason and justice twisted about as far as discrimination and hatred would permit.  The argument for states’ rights in support of segregation was as lame then as the states’ rights platform is today for gun ownership or against mandatory health coverage.  Show me one major issue or event where the cry for states’ rights was actually made FOR rights, rather than AGAINST them.

My stomach turned over and over as I listened, but also because today’s Tea Party and militias condemn our government in its entirety using the same anti-government catch phrases.  Even the GOP, in all of its offensive whining and sore-losing tactics over health care reform, has echoed similar foul responses that demean and distort our Constitutional principles.  “Repeal and reform” is just a cover-up for saying, “Get that Darkie out of the White House.”

You know that is their ultimate purpose, proven once again when Senator Mitch McConnell continues to accuse the administration’s attempts at fiscal overhaul to be just another way of bailing out the large banks.  McConnell continues to rant about how “un-American” financial reform is.  Nah.  He and his cronies want to see President Obama go down, back to the plantation.

I urge you to find a copy of this documentary and watch it.  Perhaps the part of it that had the greatest emotional impact on me was to watch these “locked out”children repeat the lessons taught by their parents, lessons calmly, reasonably, yet persistently encouraging their children to walk up that hill to that new school.  Yes, they instructed the children to say nothing, just keep on walking.  The wisdom of those parents is really what won the day for all minorities trying to get a fair and equal education.  There was such strength, quiet as it might have been, in the teachings of the parents.

Frank Rich, in his Op-Ed article in the New York Times this past Sunday, confronted this same issue of prejudice disguised as Americanism, only difference being he cited these blatant examples from recent days.  Today, a giant of an educator and civil rights activist, Dorothy Height, passed away.  Her 98 years on this earth should be honored by instructing those who deem their biased, militant America to be the America of all of us, to take their narrow, self-serving ideas and stick it where the sun don’t shine.  We should never cave in to these reactionary, self-loathing, miserable people.  Ever.

Rent it, buy it, watch it: “Locked Out: The Fall of Massive Resistance”.  Then, thank your lucky stars we have such an intelligent, calm President who is without a doubt, the product of all the battles for equal rights that came before his time.   There is no better antidote than President Obama for what ails us.

Younger Than Springtime …..

April 19, 2010

…… Am I.  Enjoy the Spring with me in my own yard.

You are only as old as you feel.  And if you believe that, I have an honest politician I want you to meet, the tooth fairy is real, and there is a cure for gravitational aging.

No Safety in Securities

April 18, 2010

Our use of the term “securities” to define investment vehicles should be outlawed.  The word “securities” is used interchangeably with financial instruments.  Part and parcel of this definition is the understanding of the implied value and safety supposedly inherent in the financial instrument, often including a sizeable amount of collateral to safeguard that security.  Without an underlying intrinsic value, securities are rendered way too risky and thus, dangerous. Today, the use of “securities”, as applied to financial mediums, is a total, unadulterated oxymoron.

Remember the slogan of Smith Barney from 1979 until 1986, uttered by the ever-authoritative voice of John Houseman?  “We make money the old-fashioned way.  We EARN it.”  Just as the term “securities” is synonymous with sound investments, so the word “earn” should have responsible, accountable and moral principles behind it.

A bit of history of our financial industry is in order.  Please note, my major reference is William D. Cohan’s book “House of Cards”.  Cohan worked on Wall Street for 17 years and used the demise of Bear Stearns (for whom he did not work) as the template for the near-collapse of Wall Street over the last two years.  I will follow this with a brief commentary on Warren Buffett, that scion of wise and sound investing, and his decision to throw in with the cads at Goldman Sachs.

Cohan’s contention that the first major step in the bastardization of Wall Street came with the firm of Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) when they went public in 1970.  Previous to that, Wall Street firms were structured as partnerships.  The principals shared in the profits as well as the liabilities, to the full extent of their own personal net worth.  If times were good, their personal take was also good.  If times were bad, their entire financial being was on the line.  As a result of this personal involvement, the partners were attentive to the daily trades and underwritings of their firm.  Responsibility, accountability and transparency played a large part in their day-to-day operations.

With the advent of DLJ going public, the sharing of profits and losses shifted from the individual partners to the shareholders and creditors.  The “personal” touch was removed.  Thus, DLJ and those firms that subsequently followed suit by becoming publicly owned, never replaced the personal responsibility with corporate responsibility.  Easy come, easy go.  The compensation model was also altered to favor a payout of 50% to 60% of pre-tax revenues to their commission-generating employees.  With the absence of any personal ethical responsibility in generating revenues, these firms became mega-machines of selling and marketing.  The individual players cared more about creating revenues, which would eventually be paid out to them in the form of bonuses,  than they did about the quality of the investments  they offered, or did not, to their customers.  These investment bankers were peddling nothingness to their investors.  No value, no safety.  Doesn’t sound like “security” to me.

For example, take Michael Milken, the originator of junk bonds in the 1980’s.  His initial aim in designing the high yield bond was admirable: to supply those companies with less than stellar financials an investment strategy to increase their capital.  However, of course Wall Street had to become creative and the whole junk bond market was then orchestrated to benefit the underwriters by selling often worthless securities to the public.  These instruments were labeled as “high yield”, but the Wall Street firms had taken a reasonable method of supplying capital to smaller, cash-strapped companies and used it to go that one step further into selling bonds with virtually no collateral backing them up.  Not much “security” in that.

The junk bond model was a forerunner, an omen, of the recent debacle on Wall Street with subprime mortgage-backed securities.  Just as the Street took those high-yielding bonds to the Nth degree of risk, so they structured these mortgage “assets” in packages, even more riskier in this combined, pre-packaged form than an individual asset was, and sold them to unsuspecting investors.  Whereas the junk bond scandal almost brought down our debt market, the subprime mortgage disgrace just about brought the housing industry to its knees.

To add insult to injury, even the rating companies, such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, have come under investigation for their purportedly abetting the investment houses’ facades in selling overly risky vehicles.  These rating companies are supposed to be independent of those entities that they scrutinize, so that the ratings will be honest and realistic.  The possibility that there is no longer any “security” in our rating companies is frightening.

The final nail in the coffin is that many of our leaders consider these mega-banking houses to be “too big to fail,” thus presenting a Catch 22 to instituting any regulations at all.  “Too big to fail” is not an acceptable excuse for allowing these mega-banks, with their thinly-veiled strategies of offering investments worth little value and security, to an unknowing public.  Avoiding corrective regulations simply because of the fear of a domino effect of “too big to fail” is as detrimental to our overall economic system as was the initial structuring and offering of the investments.  Please read the Op-Ed in the New York Times today by Thomas Hoenig and Robert Reich’s commentary on this same issue.

President Obama is right when he says that any financial regulatory reform must include restrictions on derivatives and the securitization of over-the-top risky investment vehicles.  Just yesterday, the go-ahead was issued for futures contracts to be traded on as-yet-unearned revenues of as-yet-unreleased cinematic films.  Once again, this sort of “betting the bank” on basically empty instruments is another ploy to further up the revenues of Wall Street firms that constantly need new, more “creative” ways of enhancing their revenue streams.  These movie futures are not any more “securities” than were junk bonds or subprime mortgages.  It is a furthering of that classic scam of the Emperor’s new clothes.

So what was Warren Buffett thinking when he took a $5 billion stake in Goldman Sachs in September of 2008?  I have always been of the mind that Buffett was an intelligent investor, basing his investments on solid financial figures, rosy outlooks, buying low and selling high.  Moreover, his basic integrity and honesty was demonstrable and admirable.  In terms of its financials alone, Goldman Sachs fit the bill  in 2008 of fulfilling Buffett’s investment requirements.  By July 2009, Berkshire’s stake in Goldman had increased by $2 billion.  As of the market’s close on Friday, that profit had fallen by half.

Now though, I wonder if Buffett knew about the fraud allegations (charged by the SEC yesterday) that Goldman carried out in 2007.  Buffett does his pre-purchase homework thoroughly, and I cannot imagine he did not do so in 2008 when he committed  that $5 billion of Berkshire’s funds to Goldman Sachs.  Does that mean that he knew about the subprime shenanigans of Goldman and chose to ignore them?  I cannot believe that either.  We will have to wait and see exactly what the repercussions, if any,  these SEC charges against Goldman might have on the value and moral integrity of Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway shares.  Probably, based on similar past situations, Berkshire will wind up either exercising their Goldman warrants or not.  Berkshire will come out of this smelling like a rose, having earned 10% a year, minimally, on their Goldman position.  Also, if Goldman Sachs was truly warned nine months ago about pending charges, why didn’t Buffett sell his interest in that investment house at that time?  The part of all of this that really troubles me is not the initial investment or outcome based on Berkshire’s due diligence and paper analysis of Goldman. Rather, I question Buffett’s level of moral knowledge and subsequent decision to take a stake in Goldman despite their dubious intentions of the past.  I was firm in my belief that Berkshire shares were truly “securities”; now I am not so sure.

Life goes on.  It’s always something.  Nevertheless, financial instruments should no longer be considered “securities” without tighter restrictions attached to them.  Plus, investment banking houses that market those securities should also be subject to more stringent restraints on accountability, transparency, risk and capital requirements.  There is nothing secure about “securities” that are merely a dumping ground for garbage, a petri dish for risk and a fallacious factory for generating ever-more revenues.

Follow The Leader

April 17, 2010

Lookie what we  have on our hands: we, the people of the United States of America, have a real leader in Barack Hussein Obama.  And O! What a joy he and all of  his capabilities are.

Not only are we hungering for such leadership, but so is the world-at-large.  His stewardship of the nuclear summit this week in Washington, D.C. was an affirmation that the entire global community seeks his leadership talents.  Hell’s bells:  President Obama is a one-man United Nations, i.e. when you view the U.N. as living up to its stated ideals.  Our country and 47 others embraced the President for his principles to better the world, make it a safer place in which to live and protect it for future generations.  President Obama’s branding of his ideals and goals were accepted this week on an international scale.

And the absolute genius of the Nobel Committee to have bestowed upon our President the Nobel Peace Prize.  As the Committee stated, this prize was awarded to President Obama for recognition of his potential in bringing about the principles of peace that he espouses.  In his acceptance speech the President acknowledged this “premature” prize and that he will work hard to fulfill its promise.  Sheer genius.  Ninety percent of delivering excellence is expecting it.  And so President Obama is delivering.

There are a number of items that are pointing towards President Obama’s emergence as a national and global leader.  I will concentrate on the national issues.  We got health care reform.  Despite the long, hard battle, we got it.  As suspected, the fact that the tough legislative fight did not prevent its passage, HCR was the catalyst for change and reform in other areas.

Attached to the HCR bill was the student loan reform plan.  It removed banks as the intermediaries in securing educational loans and made the government the direct provider.  This one overhaul will save the government $68 billion over eleven years, funds that can be poured back into the educational system for future enhancements.  Furthermore, this bill will make it easier, more accessible, for students seeking loans to secure them.  Also,  it provides the students with potentially better repayment terms.

However, this morning on talk radio, I listened to an interview of Joan Abbott, a Tea Party activist.  Right off the bat, she took exception to this student loan reform by complaining that now, students have to borrow from the government and can no longer borrow from the banks.  Is she as dumb as a rock?  No, she is dumber.  Whenever there is a middleman involved in business transactions, the costs are driven up tremendously.  Does Abbott believe that our kids should pay so much more for their loans by going to banks instead of directly to the government?  Even before this reform was enacted, the government was the holder of these loans, but the banks collected huge fees for their administration.  Abbott sees this reform as a government takeover.  Call it whatever you like, but basically the government had the ultimate responsibility for student loans before this bill and will continue to do so.  The only difference is that the borrowers, our young kids and often, minorities, will face a much more reasonable rate of fees on these instruments to further their education.  Methinks this stance of the Tea Party is, natch, like so many of their other platforms, an attack to maintain racial and class lines.

Yesterday, President Obama announced that gay couples will be allowed to visit each other in the hospitals and be permitted to form a medical power of attorney.  What is so unbelievable about this is that it was forbidden for so long.  Yet it took a confident, sane leader to make it so.

In the area of financial reform, a huge battle looms before us.  The GOP is trying to equate this fight with the one we just won on health care.  Whereas the Party of No considered HCR a move towards socialism, they now are preaching that financial reform would only provide for more bank bailouts.  Are they ever wrong.  While Senator Mitch McConnell is  instilling fear and loathing once again by stating that this reform will serve only to create many more bailouts, Senator Christopher Dodd swears that exactly the opposite is true, i.e. that this bill will simply provide for an orderly dissolution of troubled banks.  Although the bill needs more work, I agree with Dodd.

Let’s face it: this issue of financial reform is a hot button with just about everyone in America, who is sick and tired of the ongoing abuse.  Personally, I do not think that the Republicans can duplicate their across-the-board negation of this reform as they did with health care.  There probably will be some GOP “defections” to the pro-reform side, if not for the reason of truth and reality, then for the purpose of getting re-elected in November.  Most Americans want new regulations to reign in the greed and dishonesty of corporate America.  That is a given that the GOP will have to face.  However, never underestimate the stupidity and obstructionism of the Republicans; perhaps, in their one goal, that of solidarity against President Obama, they just might demonstrate their misguided solidarity once again.

Financial reform is not going to be a pretty picture.  It will involve short-term market hits and sacrifices for the eventual benefit of long-term stability and restored faith.  For example, yesterday’s financial markets were in a tailspin, due to the charges brought against Goldman Sachs by the SEC.  The SEC brought allegations of fraud against the investment banking giant for “structuring and marketing” mortgage-backed investments consisting of high risk and expected-to-fail assets.  In fact, Goldman Sachs’ client sold the firm these packages and Goldman knew all the while that this client was, at the same time, taking an investment position of betting against these subprime assets.  Fraud?  You bet your sweet bippy!  So suck it up, America.  Tough toenails.  Take deep breaths to weather the short-term financial storm for the calm that will eventually follow.

In conclusion, there are two more comments I must add.  First, perhaps the most telling sign that we have found our leader in President Obama is that the Bush bashing has quieted down.   Bush’s own leadership skills  were so devoid of substance.  Now that we have ourselves a true leader, we no longer have to waste time criticizing the vacuousness and irrelevancy of the last administration.  Our current agenda is too important and critical to waste time on the emptiness of the Bush years.  With only seven more years left of Obama, time is short.  We got us a leader. (You must read this Op-Ed piece by Norman J. Ornstein.  Have I ever steered you wrong?)  So let’s get on with it and follow our leader.  These last few months of the President’s tenure have been an affirmation of his campaign promises and political belief system.  As a result, our idealism is  starting to come to fruition.

Secondly and I promise, finally, the real miracle is not the emergence of Barack Hussein Obama as a once-in-a-lifetime leader.  No.  The real miracle is that he was elected in the first place to the highest office in our land.  May his strength, smarts and safety remain intact.

As ever, I remain,

Yo Mama For Obama

Happy Friday!

April 16, 2010

A BIT OF CULTURAL NEWS FOR A WELCOME CHANGE

Magnificent David

 

After a two-year loan to the United States, Michelangelo’s David is being returned to Italy:

 

"More" of David.

 

HIS PROUD SPONSORS WERE:


 


 

 

Gender Differences for the Greater Good

April 14, 2010

There have been a couple of articles recently contrasting the differences between men and women in the financial sector.  I am not totally convinced that there is a real scientific basis that underlies these differences in behavior, but I found the topic nonetheless interesting. Please do read the two articles by clicking on the highlighted virtual links.  You will learn a lot and maybe even get a chuckle out of them.

The premise is that women are not as impulsive as are men in the area of investing.  Whether this is due to some physiological reason is still up in the air.  Is the more cautious nature of women in finance due to estrogen levels?  Is the male tendency to be aggressive in finance a carry-over from their levels of testosterone?  Or is this apparent gender difference in approaches to the risk/reward ratio a function of nurture, rather than nature?  Is the male tendency to take greater risks a throwback to his hunter/gatherer history?  Is the female’s nod to caution and consensus due to her history of being the nurturer, the nest builder?

There is no definitive answer yet, but I suspect it is a combination of evolutionary development, actual biological differences and environmental factors.  However, biology should not be used as an excuse for stupid or dangerous behavior.  With that in mind, William D. Cohan writes about the current ladies in the upper echelons of economic policymaking, noting that moral, reasonable and responsible actions are necessary in whatever career is chosen.

With these gender differences now open for discussion, I am thrilled that women’s health issues are getting some deserved attention.  I have my own little story to tell you regarding this, and then, the commercial sponsored by Kaiser Permanente is a wonderful advancement for female well-being.

But my story first.  I am sure all of you have heard and seen the massive advertising campaign for The Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure Three Day walk.  The visuals are accompanied by a very catchy musical number.  For months now, every time I heard that song I thought the words to the song were “She’s a big worrier”.  Well, Jeezy Wheezy, the woman has breast cancer: of course she’s worried about it.  I followed up that thought with another, absolutely unfair, unjustified, discriminatory and totally wrong.  That thought was, “A man must have written the words to that song”, implicating insensitivity of all males to this women’s issue.  Not until three days ago, did I realize the correct wording of this song was “She’s a pink warrior”.  Holy mackerel: was I ever off-base.  Here’s the song:

And now, hat’s off to Kaiser Permanente for a very effective and meaningful ad promoting good health for women:

Then, I found this take-off on that commercial, paying homage to some of our most beloved, talented and aged actresses:

It is all quite fascinating.  Instead of using gender differences to engender inflammatory controversy, our world would do well to acknowledge these differences and use them, all of the diversified traits, when appropriate for the best possible outcomes.

POSTSCRIPT:

Just for the sake of good humor, here’s a story about the most aggressive animal of the species, the New York woman:

Three friends married women from different parts of the United States.  The first man married a woman from South Dakota.   He told her that she was to do the dishes and house cleaning.  It took a couple of days, but on the third day, he came home to see a clean house and the dishes washed and put away.

The second man married a woman from Nebraska.  He gave his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes and cooking.  The first day he didn’t see any results, but the next day he saw it was better.  By the third day he saw his house was clean, the dishes were done and there was a huge dinner on the table.

The third man married a girl from New York.  He ordered her to keep the house clean, the dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal.  He said the first day he didn’t see anything.  The second day he didn’t see anything, but by the third day, some of the swelling has gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye, and his arm was healed enough so he could fix himself a sandwich and load the dishwasher.  He still has some difficulty when he pees.

A Coal Mine and a Church

April 12, 2010

I am not getting it.  Maybe you could offer me some clarification.

The Catholic Church and the Massey mining company have both come out with public policies today that inflame the scandals already surrounding them.  Maybe I am missing something?

While Massey Energy had hundreds of violations filed against their coal mining enterprises in the last year, they were in the process of fighting them.  During that interim, the coal miners were still allowed to work in the underground mines.  Is it really “legal” to expose these miners to possible poisonous levels of methane gas, not to mention the chance of an explosion?  How many alleged violations does it take to close a mine and forbid workers to enter them?  Is one enough, or perhaps ten, or is one hundred sufficient?  How many violations are worth the life of even one miner?  The CEO of Massey, Don Blankenship, thinks all of these violations are just plain old silly.  I wonder if he had to go down into those mines every day if he would still insist on that silly verdict.

The Catholic Church announced today that the bishops to whom are reported incidents of pedophilia should go to the police and report these accusations to our civil authorities.  Duh!  However, even though this took the good church centuries to  establish this reporting process, the Church still has not confronted and informed us what THEIR actions would be when these acts of abuse are alleged.  Once again, regarding a specific, individual member of the clergy, how many allegations are necessary for the removal of that priest from his contact with children?  One, ten, a hundred?  Is the “degree” of abuse material to relieving that member of the clergy from access to children, i.e. is touching okay but not sodomy or more invasive acts?  The civil justice system takes months, if not years, to find a person guilty or not guilty of a crime.  Just like the miners sent down to the mines while their employer fights the alleged violations, the children of the Church are still and yet subject to the abuse of their trusted clergy while awaiting final dispensation from our drawn-out justice system.  The Catholic Church should step  in immediately and remove the accused from any further contact with the children.  Certainly if a priest has a history of abuse, the Church should not protect him or ignore the reports due to embarrassment or fear of financial and public ruin.

I understand that in America, a party is innocent until proven guilty.  I get that.  However, the trek through our judicial system is a long one indeed.  Whether miners or innocent children, should the victims and possibly future prey be put in a vulnerable position of continued abuse and possible death while the corporate or religious entity fight the implicated charges against them?  My answer is that Massey and the Catholic Church have every right to contest the allegations.  But Massey’s employees and the Church’s children should not be exposed to continued danger during that process.  Sounds like a decent compromise to me.

Enough of this lack of accountability and transparency.  To make our workers and our children sacrificial lambs for the continued existence and financial health of either a corporate empire or a religious sovereignty is dead wrong.  Preventing a crime that can be foreseen is the least we owe our fellow human beings.