Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Friday, October 09, 2009

Cupid keeps on striking

I have unabashedly proclaimed my undying love many times in this forum, and I guess I'm promiscuous because the objects of my affection range from presidents to pariahs, from pundits to geeks, from economists to actors, and from comedians to guide dogs.

Nevertheless, I will risk my reputation once more and go to bat for yet another mensch: the (cross all body parts) next governor of "we're our own worst enemy" State of California.

So I love Tom Campbell a lot. But love, unlike affection, must be earned. So here's why I love Tom Campbell so much:
  • I love him for his breadth and depth of public service: this includes, but is not limited to: serving in the U.S. Congress, the California State Senate, the Federal Trade Commission, the University of California system, and as Director of Finance for the State of California.
  • I love him for his adaptability: he's lived in Berkeley and in the O.C. He was a prof at Cal and at Stanford. (only the coolest of peeps can hang in both schools).
  • I love him for his finesse: "I'm most concerned about the dropping educational attributes of our population." (whereas I would have cried: "BEWARE THE IDIOCRITAZATION OF OUR SOCIETY!")
  • I love him for his ethics and class: when I raised the issue of smear tactics, he took a total Nash Game Theory approach to explain why such tactics are ineffective. Nice way to get out of the implicitly-smearing-by-saying-you're-not-the-one-smearing rathole.
  • I love him for his consistency. When asked why he didn't run as an independent because he is so balanced (aka "moderate"), he replied that he believes in personal liberties with respect to both governance *and* social issues. Thus, a conservative in the most classic liberal sense. He added that independents tend to skew election results to the extreme candidates, and cited Perot and Nader as recent examples (clearly he's not loyal to the GOP then.... another point in his favor for me!).
  • I love him for his raw intelligence. Last night when he talked about the budget - which is really the main job of any governor (allocating the state's resources) - he decried simplistic, soundbyte-appeal responses such as "eliminating waste, fraud and abuse" (as in, duh?) and instead did the heavy lifting that a complex environment like California's requires and drew from finance/monetary policy, history, law, economics and legislative rules to develop comprehensive solutions. Not soundbyte-y but way more credible.
  • I love him for his unabashed humor: "I'd like to be more optimistic than the facts permit me to be. Go Bears." He also humored an alum last night who begged him to recite some salty Irish chants. You may have had to be there, but it was priceless.
Susanne's a lucky woman! Let's hope the State can be so lucky.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A brush with extinction

Much to my chagrin, my inordinate need for self-expression has been slowly migrating away from this beloved, cherished forum to Twitter. This entropic pull away from organizing my thoughts in a systematic, comprehensive manner and instead towards regressing into simple, visceral reactions has begun to diminish and impoverish me.

Fortunately, my liberal arts formation was jolted back from hibernation today:
She also wants to ... continue to speak her mind on the social networking site Twitter, one of her favorite venues to reach out to supporters.
"She"...yes....."she"...ummmm....the human being that can reduce me to a mass of inarticulate, suppressed and frustrated energy of stellar (think black hole level) proportions. For all its value it has introduced, Twitter is undoubtedly her favorite venue for the same reason I lament it becoming mine: it is but one of the many roads taking us to Idiocracy today.

Thus I assure you that, as long as she is in the public square, this blog will continue... if only for the sake of preserving subject-verb-object communications and the cerebral cortex as we know it.

However, I am too dumbfounded at this point to say anything more specific on today's news.

Still trying to warm the super-ego back up.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Homage to Robert

"He is too perfect.”
- Lyndon B. Johnson

Admittedly I am no LBJ fan, but truth can often come from surprising sources. As my friend recently said, "If the Lord used an ass to speak words of truth, then who am I to judge?" (see Numbers 22). Contrary to popular opinion, Robert McNamara was, in fact, Perfect. Let me count the ways.

A true non-partisan, civil servant.
He left Ford, where he had been named president only 10 weeks before (and which he'd only joined to pay his wife's medical bills after leaving academia), to be Defense Secretary at the ripe age of 44. Taking the $25K-a-year job cost McNamara $3 million in Ford stocks and options. He also happened to be a registered Republican. He later turned down LBJ's offer to run for Vice President.

Data-driven and objective in a political environment.
  • Example 1: Kennedy had argued in his 1960 presidential campaign that the strategic nuclear arsenal of the United States was less powerful than the Soviet Union’s, and that the gap was growing. McNamara took office nine days later. He recalled that “my first responsibility as secretary of defense was to determine the degree of the gap and initiate action to close it. It took us about three weeks to determine, yes, there was a gap....But the gap was in our favor. It was a totally erroneous charge that Eisenhower had allowed the Soviets to develop a superior missile force.” Per the NYT, "the estimate of Soviet forces had been a product of politics and guesswork."
  • Example 2: Despite years of investing his own career in the war, he listened to a CIA analysts' argument of why the war should be stopped...and went on to commission a history of the war known as the Pentagon Papers, which later served as a key tool in exposing the war's shortcomings
Saved the world.
Despite his own attestations to the contrary, it was his idea that resolved one of the closest nuclear showdowns in history, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Specifically, it was McNamara's idea to do a secret deal whereby President Kennedy offered to withdraw U.S. missiles in Turkey if Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev removed his warheads from Cuba — a deal which resolved the crisis.

It is inane to apply the openness and transparency of our post-Cold War, post-"nuclear era" to the 1960s, when diplomats faced unprecedented complexity and fear thanks to the introduction of nuclear weapons and the bipolar, militaristic world order. McNamara navigated his own doubts adeptly - preserving national security while at the same time, seeking the best policy to the point of being willing to alter his own point of view and go against that of the Chief Executive's... ultimately leading to his own termination.

Human despite his brilliance.
He lived his entire life honoring the Examined Life by wrestling with the ultimate questions, such as “What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

But when it was appropriate for him to be transparent about these questions so critical to a free, functional, democratic society- via his memoirs, the Fog of War documentary, the visit to North Korea in the '90s, and frank admissions (e.g. "War is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate.") - he was vilified rather than vindicated....proving that when it comes to popular opinion, it doesn't pay to be thoughtful or self-correcting.

And alas: a stud.
  • Example 1: After pouring himself into the effort to eradicate global poverty heading up the highly bureaucratic and conflicted World Bank, his wife died and he hiked 140 miles up the 18,000-foot level of Mount Everest at age 65.
  • Example 2: Remarries an Italian widow at age 88.
Ah Robert: was it only 53 yrs that separated us?

7/11/09 postscript: WOW just watched this incredible interview w/ Errol Morris & Charlie Rose & RM....the ultimate underscore. (and eeeikes directed by my high school friend Mike Jay to boot!)

Friday, July 03, 2009

I thought cruel & unusual punishment was unconstitutional

Typically we must remove ourselves from the scourge of our pain to properly heal and forgive.

Why aren't you helping us, Sarah?

Proof that nations do sometimes reap what they sow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Institutional promiscuity

Can you recite to me how the U.S. Electoral College works?

Right. Why, then, is it so easy for a U.S. Senator to just switch parties....consequences include potentially reversing control of the U.S. Senate....preventing filibusters on key legislation....changing control of powerful sub-committees....reneging on implicit promises made to voters and financial supporters......

No legislative process. No bureaucratic hurdles. All completed simply by the spoken word.

Party-hoppin' is easy stuff, Arlen, so there's no need to assure us you're "full of vim vigor and vitality" - even if you are 79. However, a new photographer may help.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Economic rap-sody

  • Wall St./Main St.
  • Innovation/Regulation.
  • Short-Term gain/ Long-Term pain.
  • S&P. SEC. Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae. Fed-e-ral Reserve.
  • Overreaching homeowners. Mercenary mortgage brokers. Delusionary derivative creators. Rogue real estate developers. Parochial pension fund managers. Icelandic gubernators. United Autoworkers.
"God made humans upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes."
- Solomon

Today we bling, for tomorrow we die.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Admiration for all things prophetic -cntd-

Do you know his aol account?

I've admitted to geek adulation a few times here; the latest on the radar (though hardly new) is Michael Lewis:

Lewis: [Five years from now] ...a job at Goldman Sachs is about as glamorous as a job at the Chase Manhattan Bank was in 1985 -- it's just not what the brightest sparks want to do. The neatest jobs in finance are venture capital and private equity, but they are smaller, niche jobs. Generally, the financial services sector shrinks quite a bit. There are many fewer people making, taking financial risks.

Greer: And so Michael, I know after Liar's Poker, you had said that you hoped that "some bright kid, say at Ohio State University, who really wanted to be an oceanographer, would read my book, spurn the offer from Morgan Stanley and set out to sea." So are we going to see more oceanographers?

Lewis: I think they are not even going to want to read my book. I think this era on Wall Street will have finally come to an end, and people will look at Liar's Poker as a document from the distant past

I wish we could sell CraigsList postings on eBay....:

2008-12-03, 10:22AM EST
E1 Asset Management is a rapidly growing Wall Street firm with 175+ employees, excellent support staff and top of the line technology. US regulated (SEC, FINRA). We provide a safe home and a clean disclosure record to build and maintain your future business. We want to develop top producers for the long term. Ex-Mortgage, Insurance or Real Estate Sales professionals welcome. Excellent opportunity for recent college graduates! Must be authorized to work in the United States! Paid training & excellent "on the job" training. Send resumes to Rachel Ryu at or call her today at 212.425.2670. Learn what it takes to survive and flourish on Wall Street. For more information about our company please visit our website at

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's a word thing

"Someone got access to [CheckFree's] account credentials and was able to long in," Wade said. "There was no breach in our system."
Maybe Wade thinks "access" is not a "breach" so long as it's done knowingly?
...or that "breach" only involves violence?
...or that "system" only involves software?

I'm trying, Wade, but these clarifications aren't making me feel better.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bring on the new

Or maybe not so new.

Tony Campolo, for one, has been around forever. Yet I'm thrilled to report that his prophetic-while-pragmatic voice has remained consistent.* Campolo is mentioned in The Root's piece on faith implications of the New Administration...sample quote:
Where Bush has been a Christian imperialist, Obama will be a Christian pluralist.
Rather than "new", however, I'd prefer to think of this transition as a "correction": and not just back to the pre-Bush era, but a bit in, to about two THOUSAND years ago, when Christ ushered in an era where true change can and does only take place at the heart (and not at the political) level. 

Also not new is how much this approach disappoints zealots, and back then, too.

*and just learned Campolo's esteemed comrade Jim Wallis is a fellow Detroiter: hallelujah! We'll take what we can get! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Neural networks

I pride myself on the breadth of my network. There are, however, reassuring exceptions.

You and this LinkedIn user don’t know anyone in common.

You can only view the profiles of users within your network. However, as you add connections, you may discover people you know in common.

Am I reading too much into the color theme here?

Friday, November 14, 2008


oops wrong soundbyte. I meant to say:



U.S. Representative Jeb Hensarling (who hails from the one other state besides Michigan that causes an inordinate amount of grief to our nation*), latched onto the "bailout" bandwagon when he told (more grief) Fox News: “You wonder where bailout-mania will end.”

Mr. Hensarling said American automakers should bear responsibility for their failed operations. “They are producing high-cost products that consumers don’t want to buy. And so now we have Washington on the verge of giving them a bailout simply because we have all heard of them and they have high-priced lobbyists.”

Ok sorry: this is where I must now intervene...and for reasons beyond a feral need to defend my beleaguered hometown. Because, not only is the above statement simply untrue (consumers DO want to buy gas guzzlers when gas is cheap), but there are several things that differentiate the Big 3 (an admittedly nostalgic descriptor these days) automakers from the financial services firms. Namely, the automakers have**:

  • high fixed costs for manufacturing
  • a heavily unionized workforce that adds a prohibitive cost element and restricts competitiveness globally
  • an extensive supply chain that impacts various elements of the economy (steel, textiles, electronics, manufacturing)
  • environmental implications which have only recently been uncovered and require regulation...nearly one century after the industry structured itself without these considerations
  • an aging labor demographic that, if abandoned by the existing pension commitments, stands to significantly...significantly drain the federal government's social services

None of the above conditions apply to the Wall Street firms. And, none of the above conditions are remotely likely to be re-created in another industry any time soon. And as such, the moral hazard moniker being used to avoid aiding the Big 3 simply doesn't stick here.

Oh, and isn't the proposal on the table for the automakers just for about $25B of the (as of today) $700B+ in assistance funds? So if moral hazard is irrelevant and just 1/28 of the $ set aside thus far is all we're talking about, what is the real story behind the lack of political will?

As much as I really wanted to get the hell out of Dodge (viva la double entendre) when I left the Great Lakes State, I sure don't want it to be a total black star.

*and provides yet even more grief in his role as chair of the paradoxically-named Republican Study Committee.

** credit for this list goes in part to Salon poster Elephantman who provided much insight into the unique history & economics of the auto industry

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I am no respecter of persons...

....when the person legitimately commands my respect.

Barely 48 hours in and no prisoners are being taken.

In 1651, Thomas Hobbes outlined the dangers of unadulterated libertarianism, stating it leads to a life that is "nasty, brutish, and short".*

In 2008, the New Administration is ensuring this doesn't happen. Act 1: Rahmbo, whom the Chicago Tribune has rather described as "profane, ruthless and savvy."

Bring it on, O!

While I have always appreciated the Brits....

....I am really growing in my appreciation of Israelis. Lest anyone accuse me of being starry-eyed for just ONE man.

*this phrase actually became emblazened in my memory as The Red Herring magazine's unofficial legal counsel circa 1995.... attorneys out there, please take no offense despite intent

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

Hope that I will no longer be flabbergasted.
Hope that I will no longer be reduced to a fetal-positioned wet noodle.

Despite the merciless, incessant, unrelenting inanity, I will remain....audaciously hopeful.

Please stay here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some things bear repeating

For example.... perfection. To resume my rhetorical questioning (albeit this time in the most positive light):

How often can we truly bask in the presence of greatness? I'm going to savor it as long as I can....images below selected from The Boston Globe:


Grace. Dang: our PREZ?

Cooollllllll factor on steroids. I mean again...our PREZ?

Possibility. The future is ours to lose.

Today my friend Teresa accused me of becoming an Obama Girl. I plead guilty.... but of course, on a far less hoochie and far more enlightened level.

Baracked indeed!

Results on state props not yet in and lalalala because for now: We Dance!

Listening with mirth to acceptance speech at Yerba Buena

Christina & I jam to the bit of good music to be had at YB before heading out to where the real partying was taking place....

....which of course would be...MY 'hood....we released the Obam-uppet from the fridge to join the fray.

NOW it's a party: me, Christina and Obamuppet

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is consistency a virtue?

Take Alaska, which is making some pretty consistent choices these days.

The state is not only allowing a convicted felon to run for Senator, but also to vote. Based, of course, on one condition:
The Alaska Department of Law on Wednesday concluded that (convicted felon Ted Stevens) would retain his voting rights until he received a sentence.
Idiocracy, Part 4. This series will be a long, painful one....

To quote a state GOP official: "The situation's the situation." Must be that proximity to Russia.

Idiocracy, Part 3

I know I've referenced this brilliant film twice in the past 2 months, but as the election thunders its way ever closer, I can't help but think of this movie on an increasingly constant basis.

Tonight's trigger? Obama's 30-minute infomercial. Can you count how many times words traditionally ending in "-ing" were pronounced ending in "-in'"? And identify what U.S. Senator omitted the "s" from the already-conjuncted "wasn't"?

I love Obama but I'm sad he and his communications crew aren't standing in the way of the demise of multisyllabic* diction:

*link provided for those ahead of me

Monday, October 27, 2008


It's a good thing when it leads to potentially better outcomes.

Nouriel "Nostradamus" Roubini, my current geek idol (his Global EconoMonitor ("RGE") is on my blogroll to the lower right). Roubini has been led the economic community not only in making predictions but also proscriptions with respect to the recent economic meltdowns, the latest example being among the first to call the hedge fund disasters (even my intellectual and aesthetic equal Liz Ann only nailed that today).

It's a little scary when
it leads to utter despair.

Example: Mike Judge, the genius behind
Idiocracy. While this masterpiece had (and still has) me in tears, they are bittersweet tears: the film uncannily portrays the lamentable trajectory of American history, illustrating how tragedy and comedy are 2 parts of the same phenomena (i.e. things are just not as they should be).

Luke Wilson makes me cry, and I'm developing a strong affection for him.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rant refining and Rand renouncing

One movie, one webcast and one cocktail party later, I feel compelled to refine my previous allegations. Specifically, I'd chided our former Fed Reserve Chairman for using 40 years' prior experience as an excuse for his scandalous neglect of the U.S. economic system. But, you say, 40 years' experience sounds like a compelling reason to stay on the same trajectory? To that, I offer up three clarifications:
  • The "past performance is not an indicator of future results" truism can be gleaned straight from Statistics 101 (or is that 01?): when you flip a coin, it always has a 50% chance of being tails. Regardless of how many times it turned up tails prior. (brain refresher credit to "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" - fabuuuu kudos to Gary Oldman...sigh....).
  • AND: good economists must live by Mark Twain's wisdom that "history does not repeat itself...but it does rhyme". That is, while no two economic environments are exactly alike, overarching principles can be gleaned and applied to future conditions. In the current crisis, historical disasters amidst lack of regulation (but 2 examples: in the '30s up to Black Tuesday; in the '80s up to the S&L collapse) should have served as instructive examples (Twain quote credit to Schwab SVP Mark Riepe, who is emerging as one of my newer geek heroes).
  • I thus underscore my original charge: that Greenspan is a purist to the detriment of the globe. Specifically, his 40-year tryst with Ayn Rand led to a sorely misguided ascent to the unfettered rationalistic, meritocratic nature of humans, thwarting the rest of the world into the cataclysmic consequences of such distorted thinking. (credit to Haas mixer where I blurted this out in verbal form with only afterthought consideration as to whether other Rand-ists were present).

Yes, we have her to thank, too. "Objectivism" is an attractive philosophy not because it is true, but because it plays to our sense of pride. Why else would people eat up McCainistic lauds of "the American people" as being so virtuous when it was these people - not just corporate execs - who contributed to our current economic mess in living beyond their means (one example: embracing "Pick-A-Pay" negative amortization schemes...I mean, "negative amortization"??).

How much more roadkill do we need to accept that, when left to our own devices, we do NOT do the right thing?

Update on 12/11/08: my friend Jim just sent me an article which leads me to believe that Cardinal Ratzinger (aka The Pope) and I are somewhat aligned...

...and while I am not in 100% agreement with the entire article, I did find its assertion that "the market mechanism has a negative but not a positive function. The market cannot decide what innovations or practices are beneficial to society. It can only punish incompetence and inefficiency" to be incredibly thought provoking....I'll be gnawing on that one for a while....

Friday, October 17, 2008

If perfection isn't enough...

Eloquent. Intelligent. Reasoned. Poised. Objective. Classy. Dashing. Cool.

And a freakin' standup comedian to boot?

Honestly, if this man is not elected, I may go into comatose hibernation for the next four (pleaseeeeee not eight) years.....