click for larger image


Or, 13 Reasons for Ruin and ... maybe, a few Routes for Recovery

Dear Senators, Representatives and those who want to be President:

As near as I can figure out, up until the last few days, the Republican policies regarding our nation’s financial institutions and financial security seem to have been to:

(1) eliminate most scrutiny and regulation of financial institutions of any sort by changing or reinterpreting the laws,
(2) cut the staff and funding of the existing regulatory agencies,
(3) put agency heads in power who come from the regulated financial institutions and/or who are openly opposed to scrutiny and regulation on principle,
(4) replace the remaining professional staff doing the day to day regulating with either party zealots or those who will do what they are told,
(5) encourage embarrassingly massive campaign contributions from the institutions that were supposed to be scrutinized and regulated,
(6) conduct most public business in private,
(7) arrogantly and patronizingly insist that the “experts” (i.e. themselves and only themselves) know best no matter how obvious or elementary the proposition,
(8) attempt to impose a particular ideology on the market regardless of present circumstances,
(9) proclaim that the many questionable practices being produced such as loaning large sums to people who could not possibly pay it back secured by overpriced housing were somehow sound investments,
(10) assume sales prices of stocks, bonds and homes would continue to increase forever,
(11) cut taxes whether the economy is going up or down,
(12) discourage savings while simultaneously allowing heavy, heavy borrowing by consumers, businesses and the government itself to accumulate to ridiculously high levels thereby shifting the burden to future generations, and
(13) mortgage that future to largely foreign country creditors.

There seems to be little doubt left that above mentioned “baker’s dozen” of boneheaded decisions, bilious due diligence, bad deals and big debt not only busted our dollar’s standing, but caused a cascading collapse posing a deadly threat to our entire economy. The failure has been spectacular to say the least. It is not as if this was impossible to predict though. Some of the reasons behind the disaster are not too dissimilar from the destruction of the Savings and Loan Industry a few years ago, a debacle by the way in which another Bush, Neil, played a prominent role. In hindsight, if the question had been posed as above, that is reciting simply the 13 financial policies on which the economy was retooled starting with Ronald Regan, how could anyone with even a high school education not concluded those cumulative policies could lead to a new meltdown? It is one thing to gamble, but on this scale?

Has no one in the Republican Party ever heard of the Mini/Max concept in which you try at least to minimize your maximum losses. Has no one with a (Chinese made) American flag pinned on their pin stripe suit read Adam Smith? Did everyone in charge assume the law of supply and demand can be violated with impunity? How did “Conservative” with a large “C” come to mean the opposite of “conservative” with a small “c”? Does an MBA degree stand for Must Blow All?

The harm may have been unintentional, but speaking as a practicing business lawyer, the case law has always been quite clear on such situations. Those whose wilful acts or omissions cause reckless endangerment of others should be held responsible. And, it was dangerous, extremely so given the size and interlocking aspects of the undertakings. Frankly, if the five Republicans on the Supreme Court had put self declared terrorist, Osama bin Laden, in the White House in 2000 instead of the self declared “Business President,” bin Laden probably would not have been able to do as much harm to our nation. At least his policies would have received better scrutiny than the current occupant.

There were some greedy Democrats among the many, many Republicans who were more interested in lining their pockets and protecting privileges than protecting the country. And, other Democrats no doubt deserve a certain portion of the blame for being too weak, too cowardly, or too ineffective to be able to stop the looting that has gone on for the past decade or so when Republicans either controlled Congress or had enough votes to block changes. I am not a Democrat and do not care for the present Democratic Party leadership and almost all need a swift kick in the pants or replacement. But, for the most part, blame for this latest in a series of monumental crippling fiascos must be laid squarely at the feet of the Republican Party as a whole and those the party members gleefully selected to lead them. Democrats may be stupid or naive, but the Republicans are truly scary. Extremely frightening to me, in fact. Worse, they succeeded at all or almost all they sought and the direct result is the potential equivalent of bankruptcy not merely for millions of citizens and companies, but the country itself.

Good grief. The number of zeros in the amount demanded by the White House, $700,000,000,000.00, for its so-called “bailout” plan to hopefully slow down the hemorrhaging is approaching the gargantuan sized pile the Pentagon spends on everything it does including two separate wars and trying to refit a tired and badly used military. Yet, the hundreds of billions in supposedly needed instant “bailout” was not even on the budget. Talk about budget busters, it is the biggest “bailout” of all time and may be greater than all the past ones put together especially when the other buyouts of the past few weeks are counted in dramatically upping the total. It’s staggering in its implications, almost unimaginable in scale. In any event, much of it is likely a net loss, maybe all. And, there is no reliable evidence that the hemorrhaging stops at a mere trillion or so. Shouldn’t there be some nagging doubt or scepticism about the concept as well as the amount since those telling us so are the same ones who told us the Iraq War would “only” cost $20 billion?

So, what to do? Bush’s Treasury Secretary has proposed a “bailout” which will give him an initial three-quarter trillion to play with. That Treasury Secretary and his boss had the nerve to initially demand Congress abdicate its Constitution responsibility to oversee the taxpayer resources being possibly squandered. The Secretary (who came to his position straight out of the same group of preening, cover storied, “geniuses” on Wall Street who made a lot of other promises and representations) asked, no - demanded, that he be given the power to do whatever he jolly well pleases with that huge pile of cash. He insisted that there be no oversight and especially no penalties or future liability for him. As to what he plans to do with it, he has already indicated he intended to simply hand the money over to the malefactors who caused the problem with no strings attached. He apparently planed to buy up his buddies stupidities (or thefts) and happily stick the tab with the taxpayers. If there are any profits later, those would have been kept solely by those who caused the losses. The Treasury Secretary still insists this be done almost immediately with next to no debate or investigation. The unmitigated gall and arrogance of such a proposal is something only the current Administration could have come up with. In light of their track record on this and almost everything else, they could have at least acted humble when they were proposing a pocket picking and power grab of such magnitude.

Since Senator McCain has said only days ago he greatly admires that Treasury Secretary. Of course, the Treasury Secretary McCain likes so much is the same guy who in March of this year was still going on TV to say the economy was great and let’s keep doing what we have been. McCain has voted for almost every financial deregulation plan his party has proposed over the past few decades and is showing us nothing really different even now. So, McCain just lost my vote for sure.

That leaves the rest of you in Congress such as my own Senator Gordon Smith, who wants to be re-elected for another two to six years even though he has supported so many of those Republican policies that lead us to this juncture. Whether I vote for him will depend on what he and the rest of you do about this between now and election.

If you vote in Congress to pass anything like what has been proposed by the Treasury Secretary, you do not deserve mine or anyone else’s vote. What might get my vote for an incumbent?

• For one, there needs to be denunciation of President Bush and the Treasury Secretary for even proposing such a “bailout” as initially proposed. There should be a public admission by Republicans that the Republican platform and policies on the economy over the past decades was a terrible idea. As for the Democrats, no gloating. You spineless wonders caved in on the abandonment of the concept that financial institutions should be fiscally conservative (with a small “c”). You have complicity in the tragedy thanks to your incompetency in stopping the rape of the system by the Republicans.

• Words are not enough though. If there is to be a transfer of taxpayer money from desperately needed other programs such as rebuilding our national security readiness and protecting our health, jobs and infrastructure, then NO CASH FOR TRASH!!!! Either buy the assets at current market value or buy appropriate shares of the company stock so that taxpayers can have at least a chance as owners, albeit a slim one, of protecting their investment. Or, possibly only allow the money to be given out loans secured by all the assets of the businesses obtaining the money.

• Maybe instead of giving the money to the idiots and maybe criminals directly responsible, perhaps use it instead to take over the mortgages of those poor homeowners suckered into the subprime mortgages with the escalating rates. By the way, didn’t anyone in charge begin to have suspicions once they heard about the “miraculous” growth of what turned out to be aptly named “subprime” mortgages? What part of “subprime” did they not understand? Certainly change the bankruptcy laws to once again allow the court to write down interest rates to fair market rates. Why should the banks be given a write down unless the people they duped or mislead get one too?

• There must be far better oversight and it better be both open and nonpartisan. Congress should closely and frequently oversee progress. Moreover, not all the money should be spent instantaneously. In other words, no bailouts without open and public hearings on each including looking at the books of the target institutions.

• There must be investigations to pin point what went wrong. How can we avoid another debacle unless we know what caused it other than voting Republican in the 21st century? Better yet, there must be criminal investigations with subpoena power to ferret out what appears to be some likely fraud and other criminal activity. Some jail time for the worst offenders might prove to have a deterrent effect.

• In that regard, a significant amount of the money allocated to “save” us must go to funding lots more professional non-partisan regulators and sufficient staff for them to do such ferreting. And, let’s roll back the roll back that was done by Republicans when they set out to restrict any serious regulating since the mid-80's.

• Encourage more savings and less spending by consumers. See that interest rates improve for those who want to put money into banks as depositors.

• We definitely need more transparency on accounting, auditors, appraisals and other “due diligence” practices. Ralph Nader had a good idea for reducing conflicts of interest. He suggested taking away power for auditor and rating agency selection from companies and placing it in the hands of the SEC to be administered on random assignment. Maybe create stiff penalties for those who refuse or fail. Certainly no bailout funds unless the companies receiving it agree to new practices and accountability. Prudence and conservatism ought to once again become the principles on which financial institutions make decisions. Increase their fiduciary obligations to protect the money of others.

• Perhaps ask Ralph Nader about another of his suggestions, to create a securities speculation tax, starting with derivatives, to deter what he accurately styled as “casino-style capitalism.” Also look at his proposal to avoid future housing bubbles by removing implicit government guarantees for new mortgages that exceed thresholds of greater than, say, 15 times the annual fair market rent value of the home. Doesn’t that sound like a prudent conservative thing to do? Why reject a suggestion simply because of who proposes it? Maybe Nader is on to something.

• In contrast, maybe there should be a continuing suspicion hereafter of those opinions coming from the now fully discredited (no pun intended) financial institutions. Maybe we need more consumer advocates or taxpayer advocates on financial company boards and regulating bodies. Certainly any member of the FDIC or Federal Reserve ought to be subject to Congressional approval.

• Maybe there ought to be warning labels placed on bailed out companies and executives of those companies similar to warnings we put on food, so that future customers know who were idiots and who weren’t. It could be a mandatory part of their prospectus, offerings, advertisements and websites. That would be a good idea even for the nincompoop pundits who should have known better and lead us to this juncture. Journalism will never be a genuine “profession” unless its members have a license before holding themselves out as practitioners. To be a true profession, it should be one with enforceable ethics and occasionally some getting fired for getting it so wrong.

• It is time to lower expectations. Wall Street rules lead to the breaking up of profitable newspaper chains because they weren’t making enough profits. Banks for the same reason made really risky investments because the bank owners and managers didn’t feel the rate of return was as high as it should be to be attractive. Expensive company CEOs made similar risky short term decisions primarily because their personal rewards in stock options and bonuses were tied to short term income, not long term safety or viability. Every silver lining has a cloud. Or, the proverbial “perfect storm” as this is turning out to be. Those might not have occurred if expectations were realistic.

• Certainly NO bailout of uber rich CEOs! If a company gets any funds, there must be no golden parachutes and none of the executives should be allowed to earn more than the President.

• And, enough of the tax cuts, especially for the massively rich. That includes reimposing a reasonable tax on estates of a million or more. Estate taxes can’t harm the financial institutions and would provide desperately needed funds for essential programs which will otherwise be crippled by the bailout.

• Maybe there should be a restriction on lobbying by companies being bailed out.

• Maybe there should be renewed questioning of aggregations, especially in the communications industry and control of news outlets by holding companies with potential conflicts of interest. It is hard to expect vigorous investigations of GE or Disney for instance by the networks those two own. The antitrust laws were created for a reason. The age of the Robber Barons of the late 1800s is not too dissimilar from today. Then, as now, that puts too much influence on the economy in the hands of too few.

• Do we really want to bailout foreign countries that own big pieces of some of the distressed companies? How will that enter the consideration?

• Whatever you do, do not act precipitously. How about asking for some corroborative proof to the extravagant claims of the Administration officials and those desiring to fleece what is left of our nation’s treasury?

The bottom line, as they ironically say in the financial world, is if you vote on a “bailout” without genuine study and reflection, then your foolhardiness becomes evident. So, what’s it going to be? Do you want my vote or do you want to continue with the binge that has been recklessly destroying our country? Your choice. Then, I get my choice.



Or, Cain’t Keep Listening to McCain and the Lame Dame Proclaim the Same Ol’ Dang Thing

With Senator McCain, we can’t possibly gain.
He’ll continue the pain. It’ll fester and remain.

More economy strain. More military drain.
More pollutants in rain. More torture and shame.

The Constitution is stained if not totally slain.
Health’s not maintained. Folks dying in vain.

We’re hated from Bahrain clear up to the Ukraine. Whether Haitian or Dane,
Even in Spain, we’re hotly distained whether village or city or mountain or plain.

Why his pals acted so wild and insane, he still has yet to begin to explain.
From all that we can currently obtain, McCain is proclaiming just their usual refrain.

It’s a long, very long, culpability chain. So, why keep it the same and suffer again?

As for that questionable dame he chose to campaign,
Her main claim to fame seems to be her lipstick and aim.

Her confident claim is we assuredly sprang without contradiction from Able and Cain.
As for sex, just simply abstain. No need to worry if you’re upright, not layin’.

Her statements are so silly, you’d think she’s Mark Twain.
As far as the facts allow us to ascertain, Palin’s deranged and should be detained.

I shouldn’t be angry and loudly profane, but where the &#@% did McCain leave his brain?
The question to frame is do we want her to train when all of her answers focus on drilling and cranes?

She’s not a boon; she’s a bane. So, please pick again, not someone so lame.
She’s only more of the same of those who would reign.

Why in the world would you vote to retain someone from the party responsible for most of the blame?

This isn’t a game. It’s not arcane or mundane. Logic and research makes it quite plain.
Unless you really like to complain, select real change in those to ordain.

Barack is our man. Obama’s the name.
He’s bright and urbane. Look at all he overcame.

And what McCain won’t even feign to tame, Obama at least, will try to restrain.
With him in office, in the same vein, our principles and honor won’t tarnish and wane.

At least, he knows what we need to regain. A weather vane is not what he became.
So what if he bowls down the wrong lane? So what if he likes bread with whole wheat grain?

So what if he has a strange sounding name. So what if he drinks not beer, but champagne?
So what if he’s black? To what does that pertain? Is racism forever and always ingrained?

“Vote for Obama,” we proudly exclaim! Let him be the one in that big Air Force plane.


click on cartoon for larger image


Or, Do As I Say, Not As I Do

The Woman who wants to tell us what to do as vice-president says she is all for “Choice” at least for whether women with disabled infants and pregnant teenagers should be allowed to work full time as a governor and potential president or stay at home and take care of the kids.

She says in her campaign propaganda she wants to allow all kinds of happy Choices once she is in control. . .
• so long as the Choices do not involve women learning how to prevent pregnancies,
• so long as the Choices do not involve women having sex prior to marriage, and
• so long as the Choices do not involve women terminating an unwanted pregnancy even if the lack of Choice threatens the life or health of the women.

That’s not really much of a Choice, is it? And, don’t you have reason to suspect that if she herself was not stuck with a disabled infant plus a pregnant teenager, she would be insisting there should be no Choice on even that? In light of her other positions, don’t you suspect she would normally deny choice for someone in that predicament?

The voters do have a choice though. Voters can chose to say no to those who want to order women what to do even when it is a woman doing the ordering.

The Man who wants to tell us what to do as president says that he is all for “Change” at least as to which particular Right Wing thinking, Evangelical preaching, war loving, Neo Con touting, 95% voting Republican sits in the Oval Office. That is a change, of a sorts, I guess so he is not technically lying to everyone.

He says in his campaign propaganda he wants to make all kinds of happy Changes once he is in control. . .
• so long as the Changes do not involve taxing the incredibly rich,
• so long as the Changes do not involve eliminating our fatal dependence on oil,
• so long as the Changes do not involve regulating or cleaning up the environment in a useful way,
• so long as the Changes do not involve removing the proven nincompoops and partisan zealots in the current bureaucracy,
• so long as the Changes do not involve keeping jobs in America, worker’s rights or equal pay for equal work,
• so long as the Changes do not involve requiring insuring health care is available for everyone,
• so long as the Changes do not involve maintaining social security or welfare for those who need it,
• so long as the Changes do not involve expanding benefits for veterans or wounded,
• so long as the Changes do not involve enhancing college and upward mobility (except through rich trophy wives),
• so long as the Changes do not involve granting same sexes the choice of marriage,
• so long as the Changes do not involve freedom from religion,
• so long as the Changes do not involve free speech for dissenters, open meetings, equal time or continued public control of the airwaves,
• so long as the Changes do not involve restricting corporate consolidation of businesses and farms in the few,
• so long as the Changes do not involve regulating greedy excesses and stupidities in the business and financial world,
• so long as the Changes do not involve restricting access by Republican lobbyists or their deep pockets,
• so long as the Changes do not involve verifiable paper ballots when Republican built electronic voting machines are used,
• so long as the Changes do not involve redistricting or changing prior Republican gerrymandering,
• so long as the Changes do not involve revealing crimes or blunders of the prior Administration,
• so long as the Changes do not involve admitting the economy is in recession, any wrongdoing or saying sorry,
• so long as the Changes do not involve giving up the right to spy without warrants, to torture, and to prison forever without trial or counsel,
• so long as the Changes do not involve restrictions on threatening, invading and occupying foreign countries without cause,
• so long as the Changes do not involve allowing Democrats any say in future selection of judges.

There is at least one change though that we can be assured he will attempt – to change the Supreme Court so that Roe v. Wade can be overturned to eliminate the right of Choice for women. Well, actually it’s not entirely true that he wants to eliminate all Choices for women. Women will still retain the choice of using coat hangers in back alleys or not. That is both a Change and a Choice.



Or, What Is Asserted about Obama and What Is Reality

1. ASSUMPTION: Obama is a Muslim and was sworn into office using the Koran instead of a Bible.
TRUTH: No, he’s not and never has been anything except Christian. He was sworn in using a Bible. The only so-called “evidence” to the contrary is a photo of him as a young man wearing a native costume that looks vaguely arab. If costumes are “proof,” then every Shriner seen wearing a Fez must be one too.
QUESTION: Even if true, should a religious test determine who should be president?

2. ASSUMPTION: Obama is Black.
TRUTH: No, only half right. Short of a paternity test, it is hard to be conclusive of who a father is, but passing through a womb is always conclusive of who the mother is. And, Obama’s mother is as white as McCain.
QUESTION: Even if true, should the amount of melanin in the skin determine who should be president? And, if the skin color should be considered, wouldn’t it help restore trust in the rest of the world that we really believe what we said in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence by electing a “Black”?

3. ASSUMPTION: Obama is an elitist because he eats Arugula and is thin. TRUTH: McCain apparently prefers designer bread.
QUESTION: Even if true, should a food preference test determine who should be president? And if it should, shouldn’t the president be a role model for healthy choices, especially in our obesity plagued nation?

4. ASSUMPTION: Obama is not a “patriot” because he doesn’t wear a flag pin 24/7 and because he questions the president’s decisions.
TRUTH: Anyone who says such nonsense ought to look up the definition of “patriot” and ponder exactly what our Founding Fathers were doing in 1776. Sewing the flag on the bottom of shorts is not proof of patriotism. And, the flag pins seen on most lapels are made in china.
QUESTION: Besides, shouldn’t the test of patriotism be more than blindly following orders or acting in conformity to others in fashion? If obedience is the test, that would mean the guards at Auschwitz were supremely patriotic.

5. ASSUMPTION: Obama can’t bowl.
TRUTH: Bet he can beat McCain bowling and would kill him in basketball. QUESTION: Even if true, except to insure the candidate is healthy enough to survive the rigors of the office, should an athletic test determine who should be president?

6. ASSUMPTION: Obama is young.
TRUTH: McCain is old.
QUESTION: Which is a greater risk – that a person will get ill in office or that a person will look too young?

7. ASSUMPTION: Obama is a celebrity.
TRUTH: Got me on that one. The first Black selected by any party ever to run for the highest office in the land can’t help but be a celebrity. Of course, most of our best presidents have been celebrities. One, idolized by conservatives, was even an actual “star” of movies (a B-movie star perhaps, but clearly a celebrity nonetheless). Besides, for every Brittney there is a Bono.
QUESTION: Isn’t to some extent determine, a popularity contest exactly what voting is about?

8. ASSUMPTION: Obama is popular with foreigners and attracts huge crowds.
TRUTH: Got me on that one too. Could it be jealousy because the crowds dwarf the small audiences McCain attracts?
QUESTION: Since we cannot go it alone in the world, wouldn’t it help to have a president who was popular abroad with both the leaders and their countrymen? Wouldn’t is be better if he was not distrusted or hated?

9. ASSUMPTION: Obama is rich.
TRUTH: By any test, McCain is far richer than Obama.
QUESTION: Should wealth disqualify an individual from the presidency? Shouldn’t the test be whether the individual uses the wealth to assist others or serve himself?

10. ASSUMPTION: Obama owns a house worth more than a million.
TRUTH: McCain owns several houses worth more than a million and can’t seem to remember how many he owns.
QUESTION: It is hard to find a good sized home for less than a million these days. On the other hand, how many homes does one person really need?

11. ASSUMPTION: Obama is uppity and egotistical.
TRUTH: Based on what?
QUESTION: Even if true, is it even possible for there to be a candidate for the office of president

12. ASSUMPTION: Obama is immoral because he does not want to ban or punish gays.
TRUTH: Obama is still with his first and only wife and did not abandon her because she was ill or not rich enough. McCain cannot say the same thing.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t the morality test for president be how they conduct their own life and not what they tell others to do?

13. ASSUMPTION: Obama is inexperienced.
TRUTH: Ah, at last a substantive issue raised by opponents to Obama. Obama obviously has spent less time in the Senate than McCain. Fair enough. McCain however has spent his time in the Senate voting for Bush fiascos 90% of the time.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t the test be whether the decisions derived from “experience” were intelligent ones? Perhaps better an unknown in office, than to continue a known candidate who continually courts disaster.

14. ASSUMPTION: Obama did not get shot at in combat serving his country.
TRUTH: Neither did great war leaders like Franklin Roosevelt. Or for that matter, neither did lousy war leaders like the current president.
QUESTION: Should being unskilled enough or unlucky enough to get shot in combat be the test for an administrative leader?

15. ASSUMPTION: Obama thinks he is smart.
TRUTH: Obama is smart. No one graduates from the top law school in the court and is selected to edit its law review unless they are proven smart. McCain graduated among the bottom of his class and still supports Bush and Bush’s ideas.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t we want a recognizably intelligent person in office?

16. ASSUMPTION: Obama is going to increase taxes.
TRUTH: Yes, the uber rich do need to worry. They will not be able to buy the second yacht if Obama is elected and will have to look at Mercedes for a new car each year instead of a Rolls Royce, but for almost everyone else, a tax cut is promised. McCain intends to transfer wealth from the lower and middle classes to his own kind by cutting benefits to those who can least afford it and shifting the costs of war to the children and grandchildren.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t the test be whose taxes are increased and why? Shouldn’t we look at benefits cut as well as taxes since both come out of the pocket in the end?

17. ASSUMPTION: Obama doesn’t want to drill off shore or in wildlife refuses so he must not care about high gas prices.
TRUTH: Such drilling will have little or no effect on gas prices for literally years. On the other hand, conservation and renewable energy sources like wind power will have more immediate affect not just on prices, but also on global warming.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t the question be reducing the dependence on oil, not just foreign oil?