Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's a Blunder-filled Life!

Great Zuzu’s Petals! What a week on Wall Street! These past seven days have had more epic collapses and stunning rebounds than Tom Cruise’s career. And much like Tom Cruise, Wall Street will continue to freak us out, take our money and prove that we, somehow, can’t live without them. Wall Street, I can’t quit you!

This week brought with it the warm fuzzy feeling we get when a nation comes together to bail out a bank who otherwise would have collapsed under the weight of its own ineptitude. Why just replace the name Fannie May, Freddie Mac and AIG with George Bailey, and we all just took part in a multi-billion dollar re-enactment of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life”.

There really are a lot of parallels between the goings on in Wall Street and the goings on in the fictional Bedford Falls of Frank Capra’s classic film. As we all know, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is the manager of a bank who provided the much needed capital for his little community to grow and prosper. Until one day, George Bailey made the sub-prime decision of putting all of his money in the hands of Uncle Billy. Anybody who knows anything about Hollywood knows that Uncle Billy was going to lose the money, after all, the man has a pet bird. If Hollywood has taught us anything it is this: people with pet birds cannot be trusted. I am talking to you Jafar!

Well, needless to say Uncle Billy lost the money which would have caused the bank to close and sent George bailey to jail. Than, amazingly, the town got together, pooled its money and saved the bank. Community bail-outs, a true Christmas miracle!

The current crisis on Wall Street was every bit as foreseeable as Uncle Billy’s slippery fingers. Four years ago, I was driving down the street near Sacramento California when I saw a sign advertising starter homes in the $400,000’s! That is in dollars, people, not pesos.

Who would honestly pay $400,000 for a home the size of a lunchbox? Upon seeing this sign I turned to my wife and said “where are the people who work at Wal-mart living?” And that is the question Wall Street never asked. Anybody with two eyes and enough grey matter to fill a cereal bowl could tell that prices this high were more symptomatic of a bubble rather than true market value. If your median wage earners cannot afford your median value home, you are out of balance.

Far from failing to foresee the problem, the Banks were complicit in creating it. Making credit so cheap and so readily available allowed prices to sky-rocket further beyond what the market supported. Imagine if the banks had required income verification and a 20% down payment. This bubble would have never happened. Home prices would have reflected actual earnings and people would have been force to live with in their means. Instead, the banks offered adjustable rate mortgages with no income verification, allowing McDonald’s employees to buy McMansions of their own.

Despite the Bailey-esque blunder of making mortgages easier to get than shoe rentals from a bowling alley, the government, sigh, did the right thing and stepped in to bail these companies out.

In a perfect world, I would rather chant “burn baby burn” and watch these inept corporations suffer the natural consequences of their own foolish hubris. But much like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, sometimes the only thing standing between an appealing Bedford Falls and an appalling Pottersville, is a solid banking and financial system. While there are some banks we can afford to do without (like the Lehman Brother’s Bank) there are other institutions that are too integral to the financial system as a whole to see go under. The people of Bedford Falls may have paid to save George Bailey’s Bank but as the alternate universe shown to us by the angel proves, they would have paid far more without it.

Now each time a bell on Wall Street rings, rest assured, another hedge-fund manager got his blings.

Your Candidate/My Candidate

Eric Snider is a fellow BYU alum (Motto: We have reunions every week. Its called church) and he is also the funniest writer on the internets. This past week he wrote a column called "Your Candidate/My Candidate" that I felt needed to be shared. In addition to a weekly humor column, Eric also does terrific movie reviews and manages to post at least one funny aside every day. I cannot encourage you enough to check out www.ericdsnider.com. Without further ado:

YOUR CANDIDATE/MY CANDIDATE by Eric Snider

Your candidate lacks experience.
My candidate is refreshingly free from the stain of politics.

Your candidate has been part of the Washington system for too long.
My candidate is blessed by years of political know-how.

Your candidate is a reckless loose cannon.
My candidate is a maverick.

Your candidate is exotic and strange.
My candidate represents America's melting pot.

Your candidate is a flip-flopper.
My candidate adjusts his views as new facts come to light.

Your candidate is cranky and stubborn.
My candidate is tenacious.

Your candidate makes brash, controversial remarks.
My candidate speaks his mind, no matter what.

Your candidate has a checkered past.
My candidate has a colorful past.

Your candidate has served time in prison.
My candidate has an intricate knowledge of our country's legal system.

Your candidate sold government secrets to Russian spies.
My candidate is a savvy capitalist with international business experience.

Your candidate once killed a Mexican day-laborer and dumped his body in a river.
My candidate takes a tough stance on immigration.

Your candidate is addicted to painkillers.
My candidate takes a pro-active approach when dealing with difficult situations.

Your candidate is a promiscuous bisexual.
My candidate supports gender equality.

Your candidate was seen drinking the blood of a freshly slain goat in unholy tribute to the dark lord Beelzebub at a gathering of Satanists.
My candidate is an active participant in his religious congregation.

Your candidate released a sex tape on the Internet.
My candidate has nothing to hide from the American people.

Your candidate commandeered a Civil War reenactment and fired a cannon into a crowd of people, killing three.
My candidate vigorously defends his right to bear arms.

Your candidate is a pedophile.
My candidate loves children.

Your candidate burglarized a nursing home.
My candidate treasures the things that our senior citizens have to offer.

Your candidate recruited teenagers to work in his meth lab.
My candidate believes in teaching science to young people.

Your candidate visits prostitutes.
My candidate supports small-business owners.

Your candidate is a wealthy elitist who doesn't trust common Americans to make good decisions.
My candidate shares the views of the Founding Fathers.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Doctrine Doctorin’

The Bush Doctrine is a phrase that has been bandied about so much that it has lost all meaning, like “pro-active”, “synergy” and “mandatory evacuation”. It should come as no surprise that when asked about her opinions on the Bush Doctrine by ABC’s Charles Gibson , Sara Palin’s responded with: “In what respect?”

Rather than clarify his question, Charles Gibson turned his serious interview into an offensive game show by looking down his nose and saying “well, what do you interpret it to be?” I’ll take “Broad, Over-used Political Clich├ęs for 200 please.”

The minute Sara Palin was picked to be on the ticket, I began wondering how long it would take for the media to forgo questioning her positions and begin questioning her intelligence. It is only a matter of time before she gets the “Name the Capital of Tajikistan” pop-quiz posed to her by news reporters who only know the answers themselves because they are holding the cheat sheet passed to them by their staffers. Apparently, Alex Trebec has already been signed up to moderate the Vice-Presidential Debate.

After allowing her a chance to flounder on the question, Charles Gibson than did what he should have done in the first place: clarify. He stated : “The Bush Doctrine is we have the right to self-defense, pre-emptive strike against any country we think is going to attack us.”


That sounds nice, except there is one problem: that is not the Bush Doctrine. The Bush Doctrine was determined almost immediately after September 11th when George W. Bush stated “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

This simple ideal of doing whatever it takes to root out terrorists across the world and making no distinction between them and the nations who support them has defined every foreign policy decision of this administration. It is the reason we went into Afghanistan and it is the reason we went into Iraq.


In September 2001, this very idea was echoed by none other than Charles Gibson. He stated “The president in his speech last night… issued a series of demands to the Taliban, already rejected. We'll get to that in a moment. He also outlined what is being called the Bush Doctrine, a promise that all terrorists organizations with global reach will be found, stopped and defeated.”

So Charlie, what exactly is the Bush Doctrine? Is it a “pre-emptive strike against any country we think is going to attack us” or is it “a promise that all terrorist organizations with global reach will be found, stopped and defeated?” Can Charlie Gibson answer Charlie Gibson’s own question?


Sadly enough, Charlie’s contemporary slant on the Bush Doctrine seems to be echoed by other members of the media establishment. Shortly after the interview, Anderson Cooper of CNN and his panel of Washington Literati tsked-tsked Sara Palin for not knowing the Bush Doctrine, while also making it very clear that they did not know what it was themselves. It was like watching four mechanics try to treat meningitis.


The real question is this: why has the definition of the Bush Doctrine changed among the media establishment from one of rooting out terrorists and terrorist sympathizers to one of preemptive war?
The reason is simple, mainstream America has a different name for the idea that there is no difference between terrorists and the nations that harbor them, it is called “common sense.”

In a post-9/11 world, taking on terrorists and terrorist sympathizers is is not an ideal, it is a mandate. However, a preemptive strike against a country who poses a potential threat is a policy not so easily swallowed. This is why the invasion in Afghanistan went off with little to no opposition, while invading Iraq was protested from the beginning.


Through an Orwellian shift in the meaning of the Bush Doctrine from one that everyone agrees on (terrorist sympathizers=terrorists) to one that most people oppose (shoot first, ask questions later), those who oppose the current administration can use this very term as a bludgeon against Republicans. It would be like asking Sara Palin what she thought of Karl Rove. No answer she could have given would have satisfied them based on their predisposed dislike for the man. Likewise, no answer she could have given would have satisfied the media elite based on their erroneous definition of the Bush Doctrine.


Speaking of words that have lost all meaning, can anyone tell me what “Journalistic Integrity” means anymore?

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Fauxpology to the Nation

Well, it is a shame newscasters aren’t eligible for academy awards, because I think we have our winner for “best crocodile tears in support of partisan ideology”. In this category there is really only one contender, Keith Olbermann. You may remember him from his days as a host of SportsCenter on ESPN. Well, apparently there is some network called “MSNBC” (Motto: “BSNBC was already taken” ) and Keith Olbermann is its highest rated television personality. This is the equivalent of being the tallest person in midget town.

After a video a tribute to 9-11 was shown during the GOP convention that showed..wait for it…wait for it.. actual footage from 9-11, Keith Olbermann felt it his duty to apologize on behalf of his entire network for having aired the video.

He said “If, at this late date, any television network had, of its own accord, shown that much video tape and that much graphic video tape of 9/11—it, we, would be rightly eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republican Party itself, for exploiting the memories of the dead, and perhaps even for trying to evoke that pain again. If you reacted to that video tape the way I did, I apologize. It is a subject of great pain, for many of us still, and it was probably not appropriate to be shown.”

Let me just say, if you reacted to that quote the way I did (by having your collective IQ drop by 30 points), I apologize. There is so much intellectual scat sprinkled about in this feauxpology that I feel it my obligation to point them out.

“If at this late date” So apparently, the further away from the events you get, the less you are allowed to discuss them. So by that logic, the Boston Massacre is taboo to show, but watching Tom Brady’s knee collapse over and over again in supper slow motion is okay. Maybe that was the whole problem with Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, it happened too long ago and thus the pain is all too fresh.

“We, would rightly be eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republic Party itself” So the Republican Party would eviscerate you for showing a Republican Party produced video? Man, I knew partisanship in Washington was out of control but I had no idea that even the Republican Party opposed the Republican Party.

“For exploiting the memories of the dead, and perhaps even for trying to evoke the pain again” Well, all I can say, is it is a good thing Keith Olbermann is a talking head of today, not a freedom fighter from yester year. Can you just imagine someone daring to cry “Remember the Alamo” around the self anointed Patron Saint of the martyrs? Don’t bother trying to imagine it, I have already done it for you and it goes something like this:

SCENE: Crowded, early 19th century military camp outside San Jacinto Texas. It is early morning and men are gathered are lining up to begin marching on the unsuspecting Mexican forces a short distance away. PRIVATE KEITH OLBERMANN is seen doing one last spot check on his hair in the side of his canteen. SAM HOUSTON rides his horse to the front of the awaiting troops and begins to address them in a loud boisterous voice.

SAM HOUSTON
Men of Texas, today we fight, not just for ourselves or for our families. No, today we fight for freedom!

(Gathered crowd screams in excitement. Private Olbermann, unswayed by Sam Houston, is seen dusting off the shoulders of his uniform)

But it is not for freedom alone that we fight. We fight to honor the sacrifice of the hundreds of men who gave their lives that we might keep ours. Remember who you are and why you fight. Remember the families and the land you love. But above all, remember the Alamo!

(The men scream emphatically, but Private Olberman is seen waving his hand desperately to get Sam Houston’s attention. )

(annoyed) Yes Private Olbermann, what is it?

PRIVATE OLBERMANN

(Turning to face crowd)

It just seems so icky to exploit the memories of the dead to try and get us to stand up and fight. Surely those who died at the Alamo would be disgusted to hear us use their memories avenge their deaths. Indeed, the best way to make sure they did not die in vain is to pretend they never existed.

If their sacrifice has taught us anything, it is that, rather than fight the Mexican’s we should seek to understand them first. Don’t we see that the only reasons they are fighting us is because we are trying to take their lands and meddle in their politics? If we really want to have an impact the way our fallen brothers would want, we should all come together and craft a sharply worded resolution against Mr. Santa Ana. Huh? Whose with me?

SAM HOUSTON
(quietly to soldier standing beside him)

How fast can you tie a noose?

END OF SCENE

According to Keith Olbermann the only thing I am allowed to remember is the Alamo gift shop. His apology does beget the question, what is the appropriate way to remember 9-11? If showing it and talking about it are wrong, than what is right? Should we commemorate the day by sleeping in and reading Chicken Soup for the Soul? September 11th was an uncomfortable day and there is no way of talking about it that doesn’t bring with it some semblance of that discomfort. The only real way to avoid the pain of 9-11 is to forget it ever happened. Keith Olbermann must have slept through that week of history because we learned far too many important lessons to erase it from our text books by pretending it never happened. Apparently MSNBC should update its motto: “If the truth makes you uncomfortable, then we are the network for you.”

For a video summary of all the fuss’ click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDx80bnFrVs

Saturday, September 6, 2008

CNN: Setting the Bar for Journalistic Excellence


John McCain, a man so capable of reaching across the isle, he was able to get the Democratic Nomination as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Northern Exposure-less

In response to a question from Anderson Cooper this week about whether or not Sara Palin has more executive experience, Barack Obama said this:

“My understanding is that Gov. Palin’s town, Wassilla, has I think 50 employees. We’ve got 2500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe 12 million dollars a year – we have a budget of about three times that just for the month.”

Generally, I try to avoid reasoned analysis and deep thinking, but three things about this quote got my brain juices a’ percolatin’.

1)There is no doubt, Barack Obama’s campaign is more difficult to manage than the Wassilla, Alaska. Correct me if I am wrong, but there appears to be something on Sara Palin’s resume he seems to be overlooking….hmm….what could it be……I don’t know, maybe it might have something to do with her being the GOVERNOR of the entire state of Alaska!

Perhaps he has not yet heard that Alaska was made a state in 1959. Considering his economic ideas are still stuck on outdated 19th century ideology (i.e. Marxism) it should come as no surprise that his geography needs a little updating as well.

Sure Barack Obama’s campaign may have 2,500 employees, but the State of Alaska has over 15,000. Obama may spend $12 million a month, but the State of Alaska government spends $458 million a month. Obama may think he can win the battle of judgement, but in the battle of executive experience, he is clearly outmatched.

2) In sighting his executive experience, Obama mentioned only the experience of running his campaign. I believe Hillary Clinton was right when she said “Running for President does not qualify you to be President.” This is like claiming you are qualified for a job based on how well you are doing on the interview.

Unlike with Sara Palin, Barack Obama did not overlook the totality of his own executive experience. Sadly enough, he laid it all out. Barack’s campaign is the first time Barack Obama can ever say he has been in charge of anything. He has never been in charge of a state. He has never been in charge of a city. As far as we know, he has never been in charge of his own lemonade stand. In comparing himself to Sara Palin, Barack Obama only further proved that he has absolutely no experience to qualify him for the position he wishes to assume. Based on our resumes, I have no doubt I would make a better Nuclear Scientist than Barack Obama would make a President.

3) The most important point I took from this can only be gleaned by listening to the interview (go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1ougP_HgxY). In referring to governor Palin’s town of Wasilla, he calls it “Wasilly”. Serisously, Wasilly? I thought reading off a prompter was the one thing you were good at, Obamy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pander Bear Babies


If Hugh Hefner has an alter ego, it would no doubt take the shape of John McCain. Where as Hugh is a pornographer of the lowest sort who does nothing without being surrounded by bimbos in various states of undress, John McCain is a war hero who does nothing without being surrounded by smart, beautiful, accomplished (and appropriately dressed) women. The only real surprise about John McCain picking Sara Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate is that it was a surprise at all. If the campaign for Veep were a beauty pageant, Sara Palin would win hands down, although my money is on Mitt Romney to win the bathing suit competition.

Let me be very clear that I think Sara Palin is a brilliant pick. The minute I heard it was her I felt something I have not felt this entire campaign: enthusiasm. Stephen Colbert on his show “The Colbert Report” often does a segment called “Make McCain Interesting” where individuals can submit videos of John McCain’s head digitally placed on top of the body of someone in a famous movie. Believe me you have not lived until you have seen John McCain dance away in Saturday Night Fever. Colbert of course missed the point. If you want to make McCain interesting, get him out of the picture and insert a hot, machine gun toting, moose hunting woman who happens to be governor of some state called Alaska (State Motto: So cold, even Russia didn’t want us.)

Does this mean Sara Palin would be the best possible Vice President? Of course not. There is not doubt that Mitt Romney or Governor Paulenty would be more capable of assuming the highest office on a moments notice. But while she may not be the best possible Vice President, there is no doubt she makes the best possible Vice Presidential Candidate. There is not point putting someone on your ticket if they don’t help you get elected. Sara Palin does just that in a way no other candidate could. She unites the conservative base and poses a real threat to bring over moderate, disenfranchised Hillary voters. She also has enough experience and has exercised enough good judgment in her career to make her qualified for the Presidency were it thrust upon her. Nothing has been funnier than watching Obama supporters squirm while they accuse her of being inexperienced without indicting their own guy. If I have to choose between someone who has been governor for two years and someone who has been a senator for even less, I am going with the governor.

However, there is no doubt that John McCain is doing a little pandering with this pick. As qualified as Sara Palin is, there is no doubt that here greatest asset is her second x chromosome. Name one qualification Sara Palin has that Bobby Jindal doesn’t have? Bobby Jindal is a young governor with just as much experience and popularity among conservatives . Yet that is not what John McCain needed. He needed someone with all the conservative credentials of a Bobby Jindal or a Mitt Romney, but who actually looks good in a pant suit (not that Huckabee wouldn’t have tried if that meant he could get the nod.)

The past few days, however, have been rough on the GOP’s favorite pander bear. Revelations about the pregnancy of her 17-year old daughter, Bristol, have brought with it questions about her conservative credentials and whether or not her family needs her more at home. There is no doubt that Sara Palin will have a difficult road ahead of her balancing the needs of her country with the needs of her family. But if she is confident that she can do both, who are we to judge? She is hardly the first President or Vice President to have a young family. It is difficult to ignore the overt sexism dripping from the tongues of the members of the media who turn back the clock on the passed 50 years by saying her rightful place is in the home. When a male president has a young family, they call it “Camelot”. When a female vice president has a family, they call it “crazy”.

Many feel that the pregnancy of her oldest daughter has tainted the campaign but I just do not see how. If the Republican Campaign stands for anything, it is not abstinence only education or intelligent design; it is personal responsibility. When people make mistakes, they should have do deal with the consequences of those mistakes. This is of course anathema to the Democratic “were all victims so here’s your check” platform. That is all being pro-life and pro death penalty really is: holding people to the natural consequences of their decisions. Conversely, what is pro-choice and anti-death penalty but a way of artificially removing consequences. “That which gets rewarded gets repeated” is the undercurrent of all modern conservative legislation. Palin, of course, could have gone the Democratic route. She could have had the baby aborted and then see if she couldn’t get her daughter some type of consolation prize from planned-parenthood (“Look Mom, this abortion comes with a free I-pod!”) but instead her daughter chose to have the baby and will have to suffer the consequences. That is conservativism personified.

In the end, McCain simply could not have picked a better person in his quest to defeat Obama. Afterall, who better to beat a shallow, talentless hack who does nothing but look good and spout off morally-obvious platitudes than a former beauty queen.