Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Mess of the '08 Election

The Mess of the '08 Election
To the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I’ll tell you a tale of political hell,
In the land of the Red, White and Purple
(It’s worth it to note, I learned as I wrote,
That nothing rhymes with the word purple.)

I’m here to regale you all with this tale,
Of a political process gone insane.
A two year ordeal, completely surreal,
Ignoring substance, choosing instead the inane.

It’s hard to believe that there was no reprieve,
After the mid-term election.
The very next day, the pundits did say,
It’s time to make your early selection.

The GOP field instantly appealed,
To family, to God and to country.
The money was spent, who knows where it went?
The voters did not seem that happy.

And then like a light, a glow in the night,
Could it be that we’re all saved by Fred?
Turns out it was talk, but not really the walk,
Another campaign sadly dead.

And what of the Dems? What’s happening with them?
No one’s really paying attention.
Until the word came, a change in the game,
This time there’ll be real boobs to mention.

Back to the Right, quite a surprising sight,
Maverick is the only one standing.
They all thought him gone but he staggered along,
His “it’s my turn” blows finally landing.

On the Left, not so clean, the fighting obscene,
History watched and it waited.
A woman’s right! Not another white!
It became a battle of the sex and race baited.

Hillary was close, but as we all now know,
Her campaign just couldn’t seal it.
To this day her fans, say behind their hands,
“Figures a black man would steal it.”

The Dems end up with, part man and part myth,
The party savior known as Obama.
A shock to us all. Let’s face it, y’all,
Even Dan Rather called him Osama.

Before he could clinch, more blows (mustn’t flinch),
The issue of race hits him dead-on.
A speech in the night, to both black and white,
A brash choice to face it head-on.

A breath of fresh air, such a radical, dare
He lead us all like a guidon?
Perhaps we once thought, but then we got,
The safe and expected Joe Biden.

To be a game changer, McCain picked a stranger.
A beauty who draws crowds and money.
She revved up the base because she gives good face,
And made SNL once again funny.

The spotlight shined hot and the media got
The sex scandal they had been seeking.
An unwed pregnant teen, a new face on the scene.
Behind the Family Values veil we went peeking.

Turns out she and Joe, are common, you know,
With families and problems and issues.
In their VP debate, neither was great,
And I think Joe was reaching for tissues.

And now towards the end, distracted again,
By plumbers and terrorists and vandals.
We follow like sheep, as the media keep
Us tuned in for today’s latest scandals.

Palin buys clothes. Obama lies, you know.
And we watch and we wait and we wonder.
If all of our eyes, are on this or that guy,
Who’s minding the coffers they plunder?

No matter, just do it. Vote and get through it.
It’s part of the process, it’s vital.
We’ve done it before, with passion and more,
When we last voted for American Idol.

So my tale ends here, though the end is unclear.
Will it be The Old Man or the Token?
If these are our choices, the best of our voices,
It’s clear that Democracy’s broken.

(Yep, for better or worse, the words are my originals, set to the Gordon Lightfoot tune.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What I like about the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps

*What I like about the Marine Corps:

I like the fact that if you are a self-declared enemy of America, that running into a Marine outfit in combat is your worst nightmare… and that your health record is about to get a lot thicker or be closed out entirely!

I like the fact that Marines are steadfast and consistent in everything they do…regardless if you agree with them or not.

I like the fact that Marines hold the term “politically correct” with nothing but pure disdain.

I like the fact that Marines stand tall and rigid in their actions, thoughts, and deeds when others bend with the direction of the wind and are as confused as a dog looking at a ceiling fan!

I like the fact that each and every Marine considers the honor and legacy of the Corps as his personal and sacred trust to protect and defend.

I like the fact that most civilians don’t have a clue what makes us tick! And that’s not a bad thing. Because if they did, it would probably scare the hell out of them!

I like the fact that others say they want to be like us, but don’t have what it takes in the “PAIN-GAIN-PRIDE” department to make it happen.

I like the fact that the Marines came into being in a bar, Tun Tavern, and that Marines still gather in pubs, bars and slop chutes to share sea stories and hot scoop!

I like the fact that Marines do not consider it a coincidence that there are 24 hours in a day and 24 beers in a case. Because Marines know there is a reason for everything that happens!

I like our motto…SEMPER FIDELIS…and the fact that we don’t shed it when the going gets tough, the battlefield gets deadly, or when we hang up our uniform for the last time.

I like the fact that Marines take care of each other…in combat and time of peace.

I like the fact that Marines know the difference between “Chicken Salad” and “Chicken Shit” and aren’t afraid to call either for what it is!

I like the fact that the people of America hold Marines in the highest esteem and that they know that they can count on us to locate, close with, and destroy those who would harm them!

I like the fact that people think we are cocky….yet we know that we have confidence in everything we do and the fact that they don’t know the taste of that makes them look at us as if we are arrogant!

I like that fact that we know the taste of freedom and would give our very lives for it! And that it is a taste that the protected will never know!

I like the fact that Ronald Regan said…”Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference…Marines don’t have that problem!”

I like the fact that we are brothers to the end…and that no matter what happens in life we know we have one another’s “six”!

I like the fact that a couple of years ago an elected member of congress felt compelled to publicly accuse the Marine Corps of being “radical and extreme”. And, I also like the fact that our Commandant informed
that member of Congress that she was absolutely correct and that he
passed on his thanks for the compliment!

I like the fact that Marine leaders — of every rank — know that issuing every man and woman a black beret — or polka-dotted boxer shorts for that matter does absolutely nothing to promote morale, fighting spirit or combat effectiveness.

I like the fact that Marines are Marines first…regardless of age, race, creed, color, sex, and national origin or how long they served or what goals they achieve in life!

I like Marines…and I love the fact that I am able to be humbled to walk along the ranks of other Marines!

I like the fact that you always know where you stand with a Marine! With Marines, there is no middle ground or gray area. There are only missions, objectives, and facts.


If you aren’t a Marine the next best thing is to have a Marine for a friend.

Kermit the Frog and Christian Bale - Separated at Birth?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Four Essential Traits Of Good Friends

Posted By Hunter Nuttall

There's no denying that our friends have a tremendous impact
on our lives. Good friends make the good times even better, and the bad
times more bearable. We learn and grow by sharing our thoughts and
experiences with them. You could say that a life without friends is no
life at all.

And yet, our need for friendship also creates a big risk. By
befriending the wrong people, we invite chaos and confusion into our
lives, possibly derailing our personal growth. Remember that you need
to choose your friends carefully, allowing the good people into your
inner circle while keeping your distance from those who would be
harmful. Here are some important traits to look for in a good friend.

They’re generally positive.

While everyone has their ups and downs, a good friend will be
positive most of the time. You really don’t want a
“project,” someone who’s going to suck all the life
force out of you with their constant negativity. Friends should benefit
from being with each other, and let their positivity rub off on each

Life is short, and you don’t have time to save everyone from
negativity while dragging yourself down in the process. And this goes
both ways. In order to be a good friend, you need to be positive as
well. Both of you should make the other feel better about themselves
and life in general.

They don’t try too hard to change you.

You can’t change people who don’t want to change. People
are different, and we have to just accept that. While we naturally want
to share our views and hobbies with other people, it doesn’t make
sense to force people to change. So don’t adamantly tell someone
that they have to be a vegetarian, or they have to eat meat, or they
have to read more books, or they have to stop reading books, or
anything else like that.

You can always invite people to try something new, but you
don’t want to try to control them. Be friends with someone
because of who they are now, not because of who you want them to be.

They give more than they take.

Do you ever get the feeling that someone only seems to be interested
in you when you’re throwing a party, or when they need someone to
help them move? That might be a sign that they take more than they
give. It’s just not healthy to become friends with someone
because you want to cash in on what they have to offer you, or vice

A friendship should be mutually beneficial, with each of you
offering help, support, and encouragement because you want to, without
having ulterior motives. Any fringe benefits like getting invited to
the best parties should be secondary to that.

They’re tolerant of your beliefs.

No one we meet is ever going to be exactly like us, and so
disagreements are bound to happen. This is perfectly normal, and it
makes life interesting. But if you happen to disagree on your deeply
held beliefs, for example religion and politics, that can potentially
be a problem.

Religious differences have caused many bitter arguments (not to
mention wars). Political differences have caused great rifts between
people who otherwise got along perfectly. But this doesn’t need
to happen. Good friends can accept that one is Catholic and the other
is an atheist, or that one is voting for McCain and the other is voting
for Obama. There may be some debates, sometimes even heated ones, but
at the end of the day, a good friend isn’t going to turn their
back on you because of your beliefs. (Well, at least non-fanatical

Final thoughts

It’s great to be friendly, and to openly welcome new people
into your life. But don’t set the bar so low as to befriend
people who will do more harm than good. It’s OK to turn away from
people who want to be more like a parasite than a human being. Resolve
to be a good friend to others, and to expect the same in return.

Avoiding Negative Vibrations

Taking on the Energy of Others

There are times when you may find that being around certain individuals
or groups of people leaves you with feelings of discomfort. It may be
that spending time with a particular friend feels draining or that
dealing with a specific coworker exhausts you. Being around toxic or
angry people is also draining. And you may even find that being
surrounded by a crowd of people lowers your energy levels rather than
perks you up. This is not that unusual. Each of us radiates energy and
is capable of being influenced by the energy of other people. It is
important to learn how to shield yourself, so you don’t
unknowingly take on someone else’s energy. While some people know
how to instinctively protect themselves from being adversely affected
by energy, most of us need to discover and practice the technique that
works best.

There are a number of ways to avoid being affected by
people’s energy. Shielding is one preventative technique you can
use. Center yourself and envision being enveloped in a cocoon of loving
and protective light. This protective layer should allow you to
consciously regulate the energy around you. The intent to shield
oneself is all you need for this technique to work. You can even create
a trigger word to assist you in quickly creating a shield. Say this
word each time you create a new shield, until the word and the shield
become automatically associated in your mind. If you run into a person
whose energy you find draining, you may want to cleanse your own energy
field after your encounter. Sage, cold showers, singing, mineral water
baths, spending time in nature, and a simple break to recharge are all
ways to accomplish this.

While it is important to know how to shield yourself from energy, there
are those energies that you may not want to shut out. The energy of
laughter from a newborn baby, the feeling of joy radiating from someone
in love, and the frequency of calm emanating from an enlightened
teacher are just some of the energies coming from others that you may
want to have around you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Who Caused the Economic Crisis? blames McCain advisers. He blames Obama and Democrats in Congress. Both are wrong.

A Political Action ad plays the partisan blame game with the
economic crisis, charging that John McCain’s friend and former
economic adviser Phil Gramm “stripped safeguards that would have
protected us.” The claim is bogus. Gramm’s legislation had
broad bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Clinton.
Moreover, the bill had nothing to do with causing the crisis, and
economists – not to mention President Clinton – praise it
for having softened the crisis.

A McCain-Palin ad, in turn, blames Democrats for the mess. The ad says
that the crisis “didn’t have to happen,” because
legislation McCain cosponsored would have tightened regulations on
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But, the ad says, Obama "was notably
silent" while Democrats killed the bill. That’s oversimplified.
Republicans, who controlled the Senate at the time, did not bring the
bill forward for a vote. And it’s unclear how much the
legislation would have helped, as McCain signed on just two months
before the housing bubble popped.

In fact, there’s ample blame to go around. Experts have cited
everyone from home buyers to Wall Street, mortgage brokers to Alan

Congress wrestled with a $700 billion rescue for Wall Street's
financial crisis, partisans on both sides got busy – pointing
fingers. Political Action on
Sept. 25 released
a 60-second TV ad called "My Friends’ Mess," blaming Sen. John
McCain and Republican allies who supported banking deregulation. The
McCain-Palin campaign released its own 30-second TV spot Sept. 30,
saying "Obama was notably silent" while Democrats blocked reforms
leaving taxpayers "on the hook for billions." Both ads were to run

And both ads are far wide of the mark.

Blame the Republicans!

The Political Action ad blames a banking deregulation bill
sponsored by former Sen. Phil Gramm, a friend and one-time adviser to
McCain's campaign. It claims the bill "stripped safeguards that would
have protected us."

That claim is bunk. When we contacted spokesman Trevor
Fitzgibbons to ask just what "safeguards" the ad was talking about, he
came up with not one single example. The only support offered for the
ad's claim is one line in one newspaper article that reported the bill
"is now being blamed" for the crisis, without saying who is doing the
blaming or on what grounds.


The bill in question is the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act,
which was passed in 1999 and repealed portions of the Glass-Steagall
Act, a piece of legislation from the era of the Great Depression that
imposed a number of regulations on financial institutions. It's true
that Gramm authored the act, but what became law was a widely accepted
bipartisan compromise. The measure passed the House 362
- 57, with 155 Democrats voting for the bill. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 90 - 8.
Among the Democrats voting for the bill: Obama's running mate, Joe
Biden. The bill was signed into law by President Clinton, a Democrat.
If this bill really had "stripped the safeguards that would have
protected us," then both parties share the blame, not just "John
McCain's friend."

The truth is, however, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act had little if
anything to do with the current crisis. In fact, economists on both
sides of the political spectrum have suggested that the act has
probably made the crisis less severe than it might otherwise have been.

Last year the liberal writer Robert Kuttner, in a piece in The American Prospect, argued
that "this old-fashioned panic is a child of deregulation." But even he
didn't lay the blame primarily on Gramm-Leach-Bliley. Instead, he
described "serial bouts of financial deregulation" going back to the
1970s. And he laid blame on policies of the Federal Reserve Board under
Alan Greenspan, saying "the Fed has become the chief enabler of a
dangerously speculative economy."

What Gramm-Leach-Bliley did was to allow commercial banks to get into investment banking. Commercial
banks are the type that accept deposits and make loans such as
mortgages; investment banks accept money for investment into stocks and
In 1998, regulators had allowed
Citicorp, a commercial bank, to acquire Traveler's Group, an insurance
company that was partly involved in investment banking, to form
Citigroup. That was seen as a signal that Glass-Steagall was a dead
letter as a practical matter, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley made its repeal
formal. But it had little to do with mortgages.

Actually, deregulated banks were not the major
culprits in the current debacle. Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells
Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase have weathered the financial crisis in
reasonably good shape, while Bear Stearns collapsed and Lehman Brothers
has entered bankruptcy, to name but two of the investment banks which
had remained independent despite the repeal of

Observers as diverse as former Clinton Treasury official and current Berkeley economist Brad DeLong and George Mason University's Tyler Cowen, a libertarian, have praised Gramm-Leach-Bliley has having softened the crisis. The deregulation allowed Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase to acquire Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns. And Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have now converted themselves into unified banks to better ride out the storm. That idea is also endorsed by
former President Clinton himself, who, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo published in the Sept. 24 issue of Business Week, said he had no regrets about signing the repeal of Glass-Steagall:

Bill Clinton (Sept. 24):
Indeed, one of the things that has helped stabilize the current
situation as much as it has is the purchase of Merrill Lynch by Bank of
, which was much smoother than it would have been if I hadn't
signed that bill. .
know, Phil Gramm and I disagreed on a lot of things, but he can't
possibly be wrong about everything. On the Glass-Steagall thing, like I
said, if you could demonstrate to me that it was a mistake, I'd be glad
to look at the evidence. But I can't blame [the Republicans]. This
wasn't something they forced me into.

No, Blame the Democrats!

The McCain-Palin campaign
fired back with an ad laying blame on Democrats and Obama. Titled
"Rein," it highlights McCain's 2006 attempt to "rein in Fannie and
Freddie." The ad accurately quotes the Washington Post as
saying "Washington failed to rein in" the two government-sponsored
entities, the Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae") and
the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation ("Freddie Mac"), both of
which ran into trouble by underwriting too many risky home mortgages to
buyers who have been unable to repay them. The ad then blames Democrats
for blocking McCain's reforms. As evidence, it even offers a snippet of
an interview in which former President Clinton agrees that "the
responsibility that the Democrats have" might lie in resisting his own
efforts to "tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." We're
then told that the crisis "didn't have to happen."

It's true that key Democrats opposed
the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005,
which would have established a single, independent regulatory body with
jurisdiction over Fannie and Freddie – a move that the
Government Accountability Office had recommended in a 2004 report. Current House Banking Committee chairman Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts opposed legislation to reorganize oversight
in 2000 (when Clinton was still president), 2003 and 2004, saying of
the 2000 legislation that concern about Fannie and Freddie was
"overblown." Just last summer, Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris
Dodd called a Bush proposal for an independent agency to regulate the two entities "ill-advised."

saying that Democrats killed the 2005 bill "while Mr. Obama was notably
silent"  oversimplifies things considerably. The bill made it out
of committee in the Senate but was never brought up for consideration.
At that time, Republicans had a majority in the Senate and controlled
the agenda. Democrats never got the chance to vote against it or to
mount a filibuster to block it.

By the time McCain
on to the legislation, it was too late to prevent the crisis anyway.
McCain added his name on May 25, 2006, when the housing bubble had
already nearly peaked.
Standard & Poor's Case-Schiller Home Price Index,
which measures residential housing prices in 20 metropolitan regions
and then constructs a composite index for the entire United States,
shows that housing prices began falling in July 2006, barely two months

The Real Deal

So who is
to blame? There's plenty of blame to go around, and it doesn't fasten
only on one party or even mainly on what Washington did or didn't do.
As The Economist magazine noted recently,
the problem is one of "layered irresponsibility ...
with hard-working homeowners and billionaire villains each
playing a role." Here's a partial list of those alleged to be at fault:

  • The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.

  • Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.

  • Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.

  • Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.

  • The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.

  • Mortgage brokers,
    who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate
    loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.

  • Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.

  • Wall Street firms,
    who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that
    they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds
    using those securities as collateral.

  • The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.

  • An obscu
    re accounting rule

    called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making
    assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of

  • Collective delusion,
    or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep
    rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone

U.S. economy is enormously complicated. Screwing it up takes a great
deal of cooperation. Claiming that a single piece of legislation was
responsible for (or could have averted) is just political
grandstanding. We have no advice to offer on how best to solve the
financial crisis. But these sorts of partisan caricatures can only make
the task more difficult.

–by Joe Miller and Brooks Jackson

Benston, George J. The Separation of Commercial and Investment Banking: The Glass-Steagall Act Revisited and Reconsidered. Oxford University Press, 1990.

Tabarrok, Alexander. "The Separation of Commercial and Investment Banking: The Morgans vs. The Rockefellers." The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 1:1 (1998), pp. 1 - 18.

Kuttner, Robert. "The Bubble Economy." The American Prospect, 24 September 2007.

"The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999." U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Accessed 29 September 2008.

Bartiromo, Maria. "Bill Clinton on the Banking Crisis, McCain and Hillary." Business Week, 24 September 2008.

Standard and Poor's. "Case-Schiller Home Price History." Accessed 30 September 2008.

"Understanding the Tax Reform Debate: Background, Criteria and Questions." Government Accountability Office. September 2005.

Bianco, Katalina M. "The Subprime Lending Crisis: Causes and Effects of the Mortgage Meltdown." CCH. Accessed 29 September 2008.