Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

How do you know you’re cool? You wear body armor of course.

Some things are just plain silly. A good example is this fashion article from the NYT called “A Look That’s Bullet Proof.” 

I don’t usually read the fashion section of the NYT, but  I have personalized my google news aggregator and it provides me with a section called recommended reads. I have found that the recommendations are rather good. I am either informed, shocked or appalled.

At first I thought this article fell into the last category, appalling, because the article describes how people are now wearing bullet proof vests and other body armor as fashion accessories. The whole idea made me recall the incident with my son and the light saber he wanted for Christmas.  He didn’t get what he wanted, but he still believes that we could have gotten him a real light saber in America. He rationalizes the oversight by saying we didn’t get it for him because it’s too dangerous. So, to me, the whole idea that people are actually considering wearing bullet proof vests and other body armor as fashion accessories only seems to feed into this image that my son and other like him have about America. What kind of message are people trying to send? I know how my son would understand it.

After I was initially appalled, I began to wonder: “Why did google recommend this article for me?” And then I understood.  I realized that their was a possible upside  in this fashion trend for me.

In the summer of 2002 in the lead up to the war with Iraq I bought stock in a company that manufactures body armor, DHB Industries, Inc. Although I can’t justify buying stock in companies that manufacture offensive weapons, I though a body armor manufacturer would be a good play.

My reasoning: Bush is a madman. There will be war in Iraq. It will not be as quick and easy as he believes. There will be a lot of urban fighting. There will be partisans, and an insurgency. There might even be civil war. We will be there for a long time and our troops will need protection.

My initial investment looked promising. I bought 100 shares at around $4.50 a piece. By mid-2004 the shares had zoomed to $25 each and there was no end in sight to either Afghanistan or Iraq and then something completely unexpected happen. The company’s frontline product which it had developed with DARPA was recalled. See wiki article on the Interceptor Body Armor if you want to know more. 

The stock plummeted faster than I could dump it. It, of course, didn’t help that the company was saying one thing and the US military wasn’t saying anything because it was a matter of national security and troop protection. The price was dropping but I had no information regarding why it was dropping. Obviously some people were in the know and they dumped the stock by the boat load, but others like me were not. Due to the lack of information I decided to stand pat. By 2007 it was clear what the problem was and many of the uniformed large investors were angry, so they sued. My investment wasn’t large enough to qualify me as a participant in the class action suit against the company, you had to have $10,000 or more invested and so today I am stuck with stock that is valued at .38 cents a share. 

So, my question to you is: Are you cool? Do you have your own body armor? Do me a favor, and buy your own body armor today. Make sure it says: Point Blank Solutions. Here’s a link to their product catalog so that you ca get yours today.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Referring Links: Is that the Great Firewall of China?

I like checking my blog stats, because sometimes it provides me with some unanticipated entertainment such as when people use their whole name when searching for things that target my site.

I have two ways of monitoring my stats. One service is provided by wordpress the publishing software that I use to maintain my blog, the other is statcounter, which I use for my all my sites.

The following address listed as one of the referring links which brought traffic to my site:

The address appears like this in the address bar of your browser:firstbathrooms-address

The address looks innocuous enough, but  the website looks like this:firstbathrooms-screen

The imagery obviously makes one want to ask: Is the Great Firewall of China checking up on me?

If recent news denotes a trend, then one can safely assert that China probably invests more manpower into cyber-security and cyber-mischief than any other nation. For example, a search of googles news aggregation service reveals that there are approximately 10,000 articles for the search terms: “China,” “cyber,”  and “attack” and approximately 3 million news articles for the search terms “China,” “cyber,”  and “security.”

Interestingly the two blog articles that this entity checked out were: “SLA meets the Faithful” and “A Morning Mish Mash.” Both of these particular blog posts mention two things that this entity might find interesting bathrooms and China. However, the entity did not check out all articles that mention bathrooms and I have mentioned bathrooms on several occasions on my blog:

nor did it check out all the articles about China that I have posted on my blog:.

Stranger still no search terms were entered to find these articles. In fact there have been no searches targeting my site since the 13th of January. The lack of search terms seems to suggests that one party monitors the internet for specific terms and another party inspects the sites that the first party finds. 

The question still remains: Why these two articles and not the others? The only reason I can think of for “SLA Meets the Faithful” is that I mentioned that my former student dreamed of going to China as missionary and teaching the Bible in English. If I were the Chinese government, I’d certainly be worried about this. Remember the guy used Universal Grammar to prove the existence of the Tower of Babel. In terms of “A Morning Mish Mash” it would have to be due to Tony’s email and blog posting which I quoted about how the Koreans and Saudis trashed the US, but the lone Chinese student provided the expected pat answers. Maybe the Chinese government is wondering if this student is a dissent in the making.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Same as it ever was

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I was surfing the net the other day and I ran into this:

The Progressive Party, Platform (August, 1912)
The conscience of the people, in a time of grave national problems, has called into being a new party, born of the nation’s sense of justice.

We of the Progressive party here dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by our fathers to- maintain the government of the people, by the people and for the people whose foundations they laid.




Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people.


From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.


To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.

The deliberate betrayal of its trust by the Republican party, the fatal incapacity of the Democratic party to deal with the new issues of the new time, have compelled the people to forge a new instrument of government through which to give effect to their will in laws and institutions.


Unhampered by tradition, uncorrupted by power, undismayed by the magnitude of the task, the new party offers itself as the instrument of the people to sweep away old abuses, to build a new and nobler commonwealth. 


To think that this was written in 1912; I guess it only goes to show that the more things change the more things remain the same. I especially found the part that spoke of the deliberate betrayal of the people’s trust by a war mongering Republican party and the fatal incapacity of the Democratic party to deal with the issues of our times to be prophetic.


Too bad third, fourth and fifth parties can’t make a go of it in the US. I think it would improve the quality of our government, but they really don’t have a chance according to FAIR.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Still No Absentee Ballot!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

It’s looking like I won’t be able to participate in this year’s election. My absentee ballot still hasn’t arrived and unless it appears today in Newington with my votes magically cast, there won’t be time to get it back in time for it to be counted.  Even with over-night delivery and time zones that meander in my favor, receiving it today will be absolutely too late.

As I’ve noted before, the absentee ballot always arrives late. I typically only have a few days rather than a few weeks to get it back. In the past I have expressed mailed my ballot so that it could arrive in time to be counted. There has got to be a better way for absentee ballots to be handled. Unfortunately, there seems to be too many problems with electronic voting, so I’m not sure if snail mail voting will ever be replaced with electronic voting.

Although I have been pretty apathetic about the whole election process this year, I, nevertheless, want to vote.  As I said in an earlier post, if you don’t vote, you really abdicate your right to complain, and I certainly don’t want to do that.  Complaining, after all, is what blogging is all about, so I’m really ticked off that I won’t be able to vote.

One of the reasons that I like blogging is because it allows me to think that my life is premised around some obscure Tritone, Nuns-on-Skates, Gangsta Fun aka David Minnick song lyrics:

“I don’t want to listen I just want to complain”

I was hoping I could link to David’s sight, but I couldn’t seem to find one, so I’ll link to his brother, Chris, instead.

In life one is typically expected to listen more than one complains, but blogs turn life on its ear. Bloggers tend to be complainers and the lucky few may actually have a few listeners/readers. Currently, based on my blog stats, I have relatively few listeners, but that’s not going to stop me from complaining.

Since I’m not going to get my chance to cast my vote in the election, I suppose I ought to cast my vote into the realm of public opinion. Thus I will try to take back my right to complain from the tardy town clerk who knowingly or unknowingly has tried to usurp it.

Based on the listing of candidates on this website, I would have cast my votes as follows:

  1. Obama & Biden (US President & Vice President
  2. Jeanne Shaheen (US Senator)
  3. Carol Shea Porter (US Representative District 1)

Obviously there are other local candidates and local ballot initiatives, but I occasionally don’t cast my vote for individuals that I have no knowledge of. I like to act as an informed voter. I would rarely cast my ballot for someone I don’t know unless of course I am casting my vote against the incumbent who I do know and dislike. 


Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

China’s Oil Policy

Last night I read an interesting article about China’s oil policy. China is signing oil deals where they don’t get any return on their investment excpet the oil itself which they pay a locked in amount for. In addition, China provides the money and much of the man-power for the development of the oil field and the countries or their proxies get to reap the benefits and more importantly the profits.

If I was an oil producing nation, why would I sign royalty lease agreement with Exon-Mobile or BP, when I could sign a deal with China that lets my country keep all the profits?

Does Chian benefit from these deals? Certainly, because it assures that their factories will continue to get the resources they need at prices they control. China knows that turning raw materials into products is a value adding process; something which America in its manufacturing heyday also realized. China, of course, makes a substantial amount of its money from manufacturing.

China’s oil policy will create a titanic shift in who will be producing and consuming oil in the near future. The current model under which America and American companies are working can not compete with China’s model. America has worked and is still working under the the neo-colonial pillage model of resource extraction in which America or its proxies pay pennies on the dollar in royalties and lease fees for the resource they are extracting. China is working under, “these resources belong to you and we will we help you get them as long as you assure that the resources all go to us” model. They realize that in the long-run stable resources at stable prices will benefit their entire economy.

America’s model focuses on the short-term and the individual company. To simplify: The American model is about greed; an elite few benefit but most do not. The Chinese model is about retaining power and control over a staggering number of people. The only way the Communist Party in China can assure this is to make sure that their people are gainfully employed and feel that they are getting richer.    

If China’s policy succeeds in locking in resources; especially oil, at stable prices, then China will have a significant advantage over the rest of the world who will be relying on extremely volatile commodity markets. I guess it takes a Communist to see that markets only work in your favor if you can exploit them, If the market isn’t exploitable, then it’s better to avoid them completely and set up some kind of direct supply of the resource or commodity that you need.

 Is there a silver lining in this titanic resource extraction model in which China successfully ties up future resources for itself?

Yes, I believe there is, because it will undoubtedly help to spur innovation; especially in terms of alternative energy. It’ll also force deep cultural changes in the way we think about the future.

Sadly, it didn’t need to be like this if America had been more proactive and long-term in their thinking. Much of our dependence on foreign oil could have been weaned if we had learned our lesson in the mid 70s, but instead we quickly forgot the lesson learned and traded our small fuel efficient vehicles for for large gas-guzzling SUVs. Now when it’s appearent that things need to change it is much harder for us to adapt. It’s harder because as a culture we are short-term thinkers, but this, too, will need to change.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

America’s Diminishing Role

I read an article today that speculated that in the near future a new Economic World Order will be created and America’s place in this new economic order will be significantly diminished.

I think the argument is sound. The current financial crisis originated in the US and the world definitely blames the US. Considdering the kind of money that the US government has been lobbing around and will probably have to continue lobbing around in order to save a host of failing financial institutions, I can’t see the US being in any kind of position to dictate policy to the world about fiscal and financial policy.

Although Alan Grenspan is saying he is not to blame, I can’t help but consider that he was certainly an enabler of the current mess. Sure, he personally didn’t make the decisions that lead to, as he says, “once-in-a-century credit tsunami,”  but he did keep interest rates low which did two things: First it created the need to take greater risks to increase return on investment and second by keeping interests rate historically low for an extended period of time it deflated the actual cost of the risks that the financial institutions were taking.   

Furthermore the free-market policies that he advocated and his work during the Reagan administration to dismantle the Brenton Wood Accords certainly laid the foundation for another aspect of the credit crisis; the fact that American households and the federal government are deficit spending. To read more about America’s deficit Spending try “The $1.4 trillion Question,” “Spendthrift Nation” and “America’s Suez Moment.”  

Although these articles don’t really assign blame to any one individual, they do make clear that their is a systemic problem; a problem that will surely diminish America’s role in world affairs.

If you believe the conspiracy theorists, then it all makes perfect sense. The powers-that-be realized that the American people would eventually turn off their TVs, and wake up to reality; a reality in which high taxes, high inflation, high unemployment and high interest rates are the birth right of every American.

(The high taxes aren’t there because the government was run by tax and spend liberals, but because the government was run by tax-cut-warmongering-spend-like-mad conservatives. Taxes in such a senario eventually have to be raised to cover the interest payments of the deficit which are suddenly higher because the interest rates are higher. Of course when interests go up the availability of jobs tend to go down, because one way businesses and governments expand products and services is through borrowing, but when interests rates go up those investments get postponed. Usually higher-interests rates will squeeze inflation out of the system, but in this scenario which is set during a time of peak oil and never-ending wars, inflation stays high in order to off-set the risk of an oil cost spike.)   

The powers-that-be knew what they were doing, but they needed to run America into the ground. They aslo made themselves richer in the process.  When they were through they knew America would no longer be a great place to do business, but the super-rich don’t care. They can live anywhere. They don’t, after all, really have to work for a living; they only need to manage their capital and exploit the work of others. What was important that America be left with an ineffective position from which to manage the crisis. Thus even if the people vote the enablers out of office the new regime would be in no position to do anything because all the cards had already been played. 

This is the world that Obama will inherit if/when he is elected. Obama will thus become a figure like Nero. He wasn’t the last emperor by any stretch of the imagination, but Rome’s golden age had ended and he ushered in the steady decline to it’s eventual fall. Sure it took another 400 years for that to happen, but Rome steadily decline. I can only hope that America’s fall will be as long and winding, but if the market is any indication then America’s fall may be quicker that that of Rome.

Monday, October 27th, 2008

House Of Cards Revisited

Thursday, 23 October, 2008

A little over a month ago a wrote about the financial house of cards that our financial institutions had created. As I was writing that original piece I remembered that I had read a prediction about a similar meltdown in the Atlantic Monthly. I wanted to link to the story, but at the time I was unable to find it. I have, however, recently prevailed in my search.

It’s an interesting piece it was written in the summer of 2005, so only two-years into the Second Gulf War. Its premise is how the Bush Administration would bankrupt America which in turn would create the necessary conditions for a return to a depressed and stagnant economy with high inflation, taxes and interest rates. The coda or moral for the piece seems obvious: If you don’t pay now, then you will certainly pay latter.

The piece is written as a fictitious strategy memo to an unnamed third party candidate who is running for the US Presidency in 2016. The memo assures the candidate that he will win, but that it is important to truly understand the problems that exist so that he can be both honest and hopeful with the American people.

Some of the details that lead to the “meltdown” did not happen as the author foresaw, but his timing is almost dead on. He guessed that the meltdown would occur in the early part of 2009. Instead the meltdown occurred in September and continued through October of 2008. He was off by about six months. If you’re interest in checking out the piece it’s called “Countdown to Meltdown” by James Fallows

It took only a year for the house of cards to fall. On the 9th of October, 2007 the Dow reached it’s all-time high closing at 14,164.53. A year later on the 9th of October, 2008 the Dow had fallen 5,585 points, or 39.4 percent. However, our current meltdown continues. Yesterday the Dow closed at  8519, so it’s now down 6645 points or 46.9 percent since the 9th of October, 2007. This is even a worse run on the Dow than the nearly two-year bear market that ended in December 1974 when the Dow lost 45 percent. That oil-shock induced meltdown took two-years yet our current meltdown succeeded in wiping out a similar percentage of wealth in only about eight weeks.  

As I wrote before, I decided that if stock indices could shed excess pounds, that I would attempt to do the same. I am calling this the Crash of 2008 Diet. You simply see how far back in time the Dow goes and you attempt to rollback your weight in keeping with the Dow. For example, yesterday the Dow closed at 8519. The Dow hasn’t been at the 8500 level since the summer of 2003. This mean that I am currently trying to get down to my 2003 weight, and that means I should lose another 5-7kg. 

I done well, I’ve drop about 5 kg and all I’ve really done is stopped my consumption of beer and avoided all late night snacks. However, my weight has been trading in a narrow range the last few weeks, so further reduction will not be possible without exercise. As I mentioned before, I injued my ankle, and it was only last week that Noah and I began taking our 40 minute walks again. This is good, but I really need to return to the gym so I can increase the amount of calories I am burning. I think the stationary bike should be low impact enough for my still tender ankle.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

In Search of an Absentee Ballot: Freedom, Resposibility & Bad Faith

One of my main missions today is to go to English Village and search the mail for my absentee ballot. Even though I live on the other side of the world and apathy has replaced my former youthful idealism, I still believe it is my duty to vote. Personally, I feel that if you don’t vote, then you shouldn’t complain. Now, I’m sure there are millions of people who disagree. They would insist that it’s their prerogative to complain; however, voting is just such a hassle.

Undoubtedly they can always smugly say, “Well, I didn’t vote for him.” True, only because they didn’t vote at all, and thus abdicated their responsibility. Once the individual abdicates his/her responsibility, he/she is guilty of “bad faith” when subsequently complaining about the policies and actions of an administration that won a political process that the individual didn’t participate in.

“Bad faith” is an existentialist term which Sartre created to describe how individuals consciously try to deceive themselves and others. For Sartre, consciousness is divided into two kinds; basically pre-reflective and reflective.  Because humans can always reflect upon our consciousness, Sartre believes that individuals are always free. Although this freedom can be limited by circumstances, it can never be entirely curtailed even in the most restricted of circumstances; the individual is always aware that he/she must make some kind of decisions and this is why we often anguish over the decisions we make. People, however, often avoid making a decision, even though this too is a decision, and hence you can begin to see the paradoxical nature of ‘bad faith.” People are both aware and unaware of their freedom and their responsibility, but they desperately want to deny it.

Not voting gives the individual who didn’t vote the easy excuse: “This f***ed-up situation isn’t my fault. I didn’t vote for him.” It relieves the individual of the anguish of having to make a decision, but they know that this is false, because choosing not to participate is still participating. In fact it’s even recognized as abstaining in most elective processes.  

I know I received a lot of grief from family and friends in 2000. I told everyone that I cast my ballot for Nader rather than Gore. At the time I simply couldn’t conceive of people actually voting for Bush because the track record of the Republican party which has been so horrid over the last 80-90 years, but I was wrong. I guess that history is bound to repeat itself because people choose to forget it.

Of course, I wish I could change the vote I cast in 2000 and I am sure that there are other Nader, Bush and Buchanan voters who also regret their decision. If Gore could’ve have squeaked by in just one or two other states, things would have been different.

Now, I could have lied and said that I voted for Gore. Lying is rather hard when your mother is the ballot clerk and there was only one vote in the whole town cast for Nader and it was on an absentee ballot, so that makes lying hard. But even if I did lie, lying is not “bad faith.” Lying is a premeditated act of deception which means you are completely aware of what you are doing, and therefore a decision that required your conscious attention was made. Bad faith, however, involves attempting to deceive one’s self into the idea that one isn’t free; isn’t responsible. Conversely lying or making an excuse demonstrates that the person is aware of their culpability, but is trying to hide it.

Even though I am feeling fairly uninspired by this current “corporate-crafted electoral extravaganzas,” as Chomsky puts it, I nevertheless shudder at the though of what McCain could do in four years. Paul Street wrote a piece for Znet which I thought did a good job summarizing all the reasons why McCain is not the right choice (link/archive).

Although I often feel like I am voting for the lesser of two evils, I made the choice in 2000 to vote my conscious and I have never done that again. Sad to think that in our winner take all system that you can’t vote the way you really think, but need to vote strategically to limit the damage that the representative of the people can do to you, your country and the world. Unfortunate as this reality is and as disgruntled as I have become, I, nevertheless, recognize that I am free to choose and it is my responsibility to make some kind of decision.

Well, I just got back from checking the mail and either English Village has lost it (quite possible) or it was sent late (more likely). The last several elections my absentee ballot has arrived the Wednesday, Thursday and Tuesday before the election. Consequently I have spent over one hundred dollars express mailing my ballot to assure that it arrives in time. My guess is that once again I will receive my ballot a few days before the election.  

I suppose the ‘powers-that-be’ fear people like me. We are, after all, unencumbered by the thoughts of the mass media. Living abroad makes it more difficult for them to spoon feed me their banal coverage in which the horse race and the extravaganza are more important the the issues. If I and other’s like me get their ballots late, then it makes it more difficult for us to vote. I am certain they wouldn’t want us casting our informed votes, because the news media in the United States walks the walk that ignorance is bliss.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Apathy: Presidential Politics and the Spirit of the Age

Saturday, 12 September 2008

I should be excited about the presidential election in America this year. The Democrats had a thrilling presidential primaries which pitied Hilary Clinton against Barack Obama; a white woman vs. a black man. It went to the wire, yet it seemed so meaningless.

Maybe it’s because I live and have lived on the opposite side of the world for more than a decade and I no longer feel “in touch” with America.

Maybe it’s because I decided to stop “consuming” mainstream media after the run-up to the war in Iraq, and now the power-struggles of the elite have taken backseat to the power-struggles of the weak and marginalized.

Maybe it’s because I have succumbed to the spirit of the age: Apathy.

Just look at the way I described the Democrat’s presidential primary in my first paragraph; it’s like how I might describe a new season of “24” or “Lost.”  It’s entertainment that I no longer find entertaining. It’s a fad that has fallen out of fashion. But more importantly it demonstrates that apathy has taken over, because something that should have significance has lost all its meaning.


A life-long friend recently contacted me through facebook. He wanted to share his thought about Palin, McCain and the GOP’s choice for VP. He also wished for me to share my thoughts, but as I said above, the election seems so meaningless.

Here is what my friend wrote:


by Paul  Sept. 6 2008

So, I’m thinking about the whole Palin thing and listening to Paul Simon while I should be working…

I certainly don’t share the GOP’s politics, but damn they understand strategy and know how to compete in elections.

So you’re a white voter. Maybe you’re one of those Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida Dems who subconsciously (or consciously) doesn’t feel comfortable voting for the black guy. Or maybe you’re a Hillary supporter who still feels bitter. (In the words of Johnny Rotten, “Ever get the feeling you been cheated?”) But Obama would be a historic choice…

Voila! Now voting for a 72 year old wealthy white Republican IS a historic choice! No need to feel guilty! You’re striking a blow for women everywhere by smashing the glass ceiling! (It’s helpful to forget that the GOP helped kill the ERA and that they’ve consistently opposed legislation to give women equal pay for equal work. And let’s not even get started on reproductive freedom…) That’s what Palin is: a permission slip.

The choice also goes along way toward neutering Joe Biden, particularly in the debates. If he crushes Palin with his superior knowledge and experience, he looks like a bully. If he backs off, Palin – who is smart and not easily intimidated – looks like his equal. The bar is set pretty low for her, as it was for Bush.

While I tip my hat to Republican strategists, I find the hypocrisy of the choice almost unbearable. Let me get this straight: for three months you’ve been hammering away at Obama – particularly on national security – because of his lack of experience. So, while running the oldest candidate in history who’s already had a couple of bouts with skin cancer, you choose a woman whose been governor of one of the least populous states in the nation for 20 months?

Also, why exactly is the stuff about Palin’s pregnant daughter off limits? Seems to me that if you tout your conservative Christianity and “family values” as reasons for people to vote for you and if you actively oppose sex ed and contraception for adolescents, you should expect to face a few questions about how you square your beliefs with the behavior of your seventeen year old, pregnant, unwed daughter. And by the way, why are you an affront to morality and American culture if you support gay folks who marry and settle down, but a paragon of virtue for championing a daughter who CLEARLY doesn’t buy in to the abstinence only stuff? Could that be… GASP… moral relativism?!

One last thing: Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is close to Russia… Palin has more executive experience as mayor of Wasilla (pop. 6700) than Obama and Biden combined… I don’t really have a punchline here. It’s preposterousness of PYROTECHNIC proportions. When someone says stuff like this, you half expect them to be struck down by lightning. Any reporter who does not IMMEDIATELY sock these people with an enormous polo mallet full of horse manure should have his/her press pass permanently revoked.


Thoughts; do I have any thoughts?


I suppose I do. But I’ve also heard the thoughts of others.  For example, Tony, an American guy from Singapore who I met at Glenda’s house on Friday night made something similar to the following statement: “I wouldn’t vote for her [Palin], but she’s a MILF.”


Then there was the ‘Hot Mike’ excerpt from some Republican strategist which got posted to You Tube  in which they remarked that Palin is a “cynical” choice all about “narrowing” the ticket to appease the religious right wing of the party, and then there’s Paul thoughts about how this might in fact plausible strategy that will effectively steal votes from the Democrats because it subtly uses gender and race to distract both the voters and the candidates from the issues.  


 To a certain extent I think everyone is right. For example, since I have chosen to cut myself off from mainstream media, I saw none of either convention. When Tony first called her a MILF, I assumed it was sarcastic and I assumed that when I googeld her I would get a Bushesque matriarch. I was rather stunned when the first picture appeared.
















Obviously I knew that this picture was photo-shopped, but it still wasn’t like anything I would have imagined and I have a vivid imagination. Then the thought struck me: Tony’s right in a sex-sells kind of way.



 After I googled her image I then began a more extensive inquiry. I stumble first upon her religious views and then upon the ‘hot mike’ conversation between Republican strategists (same as above). The fact that she admits to being a religious conservative and the fact that she has said she often prays for gas pipes certainly makes her choice as narrow and as cynical as the Republican strategists suggest. It seems obvious that certain advisors in the McCain camp want to pander to the religious right. Furthermore, she is a perfect “trophy VP” for all the oil money that has poured in to the McCain coffers .   


Finally, Paul is right, because politics is more often than not about the irrational: Fears (conscious and subconscious), beliefs and values. I especially think that Paul is right that suddenly Palin makes McCain, for some voters, a more plausible choice. They can defend/rationalize their choice; it becomes more acceptable in a deceptionally historic kind of way.


But more importantly choosing Palin helps to distract the candidates and the voters from the issues. Obama has said that Palin’s 17-year old daughter’s child out of wedlock is “out of bounds.” But regardless of whether the candidates say it’s in or out of bounds the idea is already in play as a kind of distracting side-show which the media will be sure to monitor. The more time the media, the candidates and the people worry about what is and isn’t in/out of bounds the less discussion there is of the issues.


And there are plenty of issues that need to be discussed; for example:  The economy, the abuse of complicated financials by the finance industry, energy (fossil fuels vs. alternatives), the budget and it’s deficit, the budget and it’s pork, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (their costs – moral, financial and in the number of human lives), nuclear proliferation, medical research (stem cells, HIV, and of course everyone’s favorite malaria), government debt, civil liberties/privileges (freedom of choice vs. pro-life, spying on citizens, Gitmo and the lack of due process, net neutrality, voting rights in the electronic age, drinking age and college culture that promotes binge drinking), the relationship between education and innovation, and so forth…       


My final thought is: In essence the candidates shouldn’t matter as much as they seem to, because they ought to be vehicles for a policy platform, but both parties try to avoid the issues. If both parties are avoiding the issue or only pay lip service to the issues, how does it matter? Even though I will vote as a kind of habitual reflex action, I guess this why for me apathy has won.


 **This post was delayed because I was waiting for Paul’s permission J**

Friday, September 19th, 2008

House of Cards

Friday, 19 September 2008

I am an insignificant monthly investor. I only put away a few hundred dollars a month. I have been doing this regularly since 2004. got me started and I now have a small diversified portfolio of about 12-15 stocks and ETFs.

I have been rather smug at my cautious approach. Although my portfolio hadn’t exactly fared well (down 10% on 9/13), I was certain that many people with more money and investment acumen had fared worse.

A week has passed and I’m feeling a lot less smug. My portfolio lost another 10% of its value thanks in a large part to AIG.

Through facebook I said to Paul:

Things seem to be falling apart nicely in the US these days. Merrill Lynch, Bear and Stearns, Lehmans Brothers, WashMu, Countrywide, AIG, Fred and Fan all terminal.

I successfully steered clear of most of this mess, but AIG hurt me. Thankfully I can’t lose a lot of money because I don’t have a lot of money to invest, but I did lose about a month’s pay on my AIG investment, and to think they were supposed to be Blue Chip. I avoided most financial stocks because I knew that it was only a matter of time before the house of cards that they began building in the late 90’s would come crashing down. I figured that an issurance company whose job is to manage risk through the selling of insurance policies would understand what deratives to invest in and which ones to thumb one’s nose at. Obviously I was wrong. Seriously wrong.

Yup, it was supposed to be Blue Chip but I guess cheese is where it’s at because Kraft is replacing AIG on the Dow.

I remember reading an article in the Economist in the late 1990s that looked at the pros and cons of derivatives, hedge funds and other complex financials. The article, after looking at the two sides of the issues concluded that complex financials were all about risk management and how, it believed, that the financial community was getting very good at assessing and placing a value on risk.

A couple of years later I remember Warren Buffet saying how complex financials are just too complex for anyone to understand therefore how can you know if they are correctly priced.

It seems that Warren Buffet was more correct than the Economist. I wonder if Warren was for or against going into Iraq. The Economist certainly took Bush and Blair’s bait; hook, line, and sinker. I wonder if the Oracle of Omaha was as prescience about Iraq as he was about the impending implosion of our financial institutions. I think this is something I will have to check out.

In any event, because no one knew how to price and, therefore, value these complex financials, we are experiencing the biggest realignment of our financial institutions since the 1930s. Hmm, didn’t the last major financial crisis start under Republican stewardship? Is this just coincidence or a suspicious trend? Is George Bush the next Herbert Hoover? Actually, he isn’t, because Hoover was slow to open the magic piggy bank (link/archive) to the collapsing firms. Hoover truly believed in small government and that government is separate from business. Bush is from Texas so he doesn’t do anything small and he has no illusion about what his role in government is. After all he was a failed businessman himself, before government (politics) rescued him. He is in office to make sure the magic piggy bank is available to those institutions that need it.

Friday, September 19th, 2008